Monthly Archives: April 2019

Thai-ing One On with Spiced Salmon Cakes and Cabbage Slaw

Jonesing for a healthy, flavorful vegetarian meal on the quick? These Thai-Spiced Salmon Cakes and the Thai-Style Cabbage Slaw meet those demands and more. In less than a half hour you can have a satisfying meal on the table and pat yourself on the back for making some smart choices.

They need gentle handling as the big, tender chunks of salmon can make them crumbly during shaping; if that happens, just carefully reassemble them. Although The Hubster decided to pulse the salmon a few more times than directed. Still a delicate balance act when forming the patties and getting them into the skillet intact.

Not wanting any leftovers this time around, we cut back the portions starting with only 12 ounces of salmon, and reducing the other ingredients by approximately 25%. Well let me tell you, it still made 4 large cakes! In fact, they were so big, we could only fit three of them in the skillet at one time, necessitating the fourth pattie to be cooked afterward.

A perfect accompaniment is this super-quick Thai-Style Cabbage Slaw packed with flavor thanks to lots of fresh herbs and the lime-fish sauce dressing. Don’t omit those roasted peanuts. Not only do they add a nice crunchy texture, but they provide a salty component to boot.

Thai-Spiced Salmon Cakes

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 large scallions, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 1-1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 small shallot, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp. finely grated lime zest
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 lb. skinless salmon fillet, preferably wild, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup plain panko
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

  1. Put the scallions, garlic, ginger, shallot, lime zest and juice, fish sauce, sugar, and 1/4 tsp. salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to make a coarse paste.
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  2. Add the egg, and process until blended, about 5 seconds.
  3. Put the fish and panko into the food processor bowl. Pulse in two short bursts, scrape down the bowl, and pulse once more; the salmon mixture should still be coarse. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and gently stir or fold by hand to combine, if necessary.
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  4. Divide the salmon mixture into four portions, and handle lightly to form four patties, each one about 4 inches in diameter.
  5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add enough oil to lightly coat. Cook the patties on each side until lightly browned and just cooked through, 6 minutes total, then serve.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Thai-Style Cabbage Slaw

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Thai-Style Cabbage Slaw

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 small head napa or Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrot, cilantro, and mint. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar. Toss the dressing with the vegetables and let stand for 10 minutes. Toss again, and sprinkle with the peanuts before serving.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Salmon Cake recipe by Lynne Curry, and Slaw recipe by Emma Christensen; both from Fine Cooking’s “Make It Tonight” Series.

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Pastrami Roast Chicken

Cast-Iron Spatchcocked Chicken with Pastrami Spices by Geoffrey Zakarian is an easy to make, fabulously spiced poultry dish. Sunday chicken evokes comforting childhood memories, so it’s a bonus to add a new twist to an old favorite. About a month ago I blogged on a similar recipe from Mr. Zakarian, Aleppo Pepper and Dill Roast Chicken which was just as interesting, juicy and tasty.

Our roasted chicken was almost picture perfect, and both dark (Hubby’s preference) and light meat (my choice) were super juicy with good texture and solid flavor. Keep in mind, the black pepper is definitely dominant, so be prepared for a peppery kick.

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Spatchcocking a chicken reduces cooking time and ensures juicy meat—and it’s quite simple. Using kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone to remove, and then open the chicken up flat. (Save the backbone to make stock.) After we flattened out our 4-pound chicken (yes, a little bigger than the recipe called for), Russ questioned whether or not it would fit into our large cast-iron skillet. The answer? Just barely, with a little maneuvering we got it to  fit.

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We paired our main entrée with steamed broccolini and roasted fingerling potatoes which cooked at the same temp as the bird. Placed in that same rimmed baking sheet, now lined with parchment paper, I put the potatoes in the oven 15 minutes prior to removing the chicken, and then while the bird rested for 20 minutes, the potatoes finished roasting. Crispy on the outside, creamy tender on the inside, perfection!

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Cast-Iron Spatchcocked Chicken with Pastrami Spices

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 3- to 3-1/2-lb. whole chicken, spatchcocked
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 2 Tbs. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 lightly packed tsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil

Directions

  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven, and heat the oven to 450°F.
    Spatchcock the chicken: Place chicken breast-side down, with the legs towards you. Using sturdy scissors or poultry shears, cut up along each side of the parson’s nose and backbone to remove it, cutting through the rib bones as you go. Open the chicken out and turn over. (Reserve and freeze the backbone for homemade stock.)
  2. Press down on the chicken breasts with the heels of your hands to flatten a little; it’s OK if the wishbone cracks. If necessary, turn the legs so that the meatier side is on the same plane as the breast.
  3. Pat the chicken dry inside and out with paper towels. Put the chicken breast side up on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Tuck the wings behind the back, and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
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  4. Meanwhile, put the peppercorns, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds in a spice grinder, and process until coarsely crushed. (Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle.)
  5. Transfer to a small bowl. Mix in the sugar, paprika, and garlic.
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  6. Brush 1 Tbs. of the oil on the skin side of the chicken. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the chicken, pressing it into the skin.
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  7. Put the remaining 2 Tbs. of oil in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, and heat over medium heat until shimmering.
  8. Put the chicken in the skillet breast side down, and press down on it with a heavy-bottomed pan. Cook until the skin starts to sear and the spices are light golden, about 2 minutes.
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  9. Flip the chicken breast side up, and transfer the skillet to the oven.
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  10. Roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 160°F, 30 to 35 minutes.
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  11. Remove from the oven, tent lightly with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

 

Green Eggs Café

No, not a Dr. Seuss book, but a hipster brunch-style joint with four locations in and around Philadelphia. Green Eggs Café is known for maintaining an eco-conscious philosophy. Each location recycles aluminum, glass, plastics, and all paper products. The food and organic waste is composted, and also not put to waste. They prohibit the use of all styrofoam products and plastic bottled beverages. All take-out containers are biodegradable and are made from corn, plant materials, and sugar.

This is the choice son David made for celebrating his birthday, and we were more than happy, along with his girlfriend Vyktorya (both shown below), to give it a go on a recent Sunday. Although you will not find any green eggs and ham on their menu, they are dedicated to serving high quality food at a low cost to their patrons—lucky us!

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The have both inside and outside seating, but invariably you are going to have to wait outdoors before you are shown to a table. Thank goodness the weather was cooperating. Part of the appeal for me was not only people watching (we were at the Northern Liberties location which is an eclectic area of town), but scrutinizing the meals as they were brought out. Holy Supersize Batman, every single entrée was ginormous by anyone’s standards.

We decided to have a peak at the menu while we were waiting for seats. The categories are chunked into Eggs, Sweet, Skillets, Savory and Sides; plus you are given a Specials Menu once seated. Unbeknownst to us, it is a cash-only place, but luckily there is a convenient ATM machine by the restroom. It’s also BYO, and many patrons brought bottles of champagne to make mimosas with their carafes of orange juice.

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The choices are as eclectic as the diners, and it was extremely hard to narrow down our selections—except for David who had eaten there before and knew he wanted The Kitchen Sink again. It comes in a huge cast-iron skillet with three scrambled eggs, sausage crumbles, Gruyere cheese, potatoes, peppers and onions, all topped with a homemade jumbo biscuit and country-style pork sausage gravy. I saw most people either splitting it or boxing up at least half to take home. Not David, he ate the entire thing!!

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Vykky follows a plant-based diet and chose the vegan option of the Breakfast Burrito. I surprised myself and also got the same entrée, but not vegan. This was a large habanero tortilla filled with eggs, corn, house made pork chorizo, Tex-Mex cheese, peppers and onions, accompanied by Pico de Gallo, sour cream, avocado salsa and fire roasted red pepper black bean sauce. Vykky also ordered a side of the Rosemary Potatoes (these too are large) and shared with the table. Needless to say, neither of us could finish and asked for doggie bags to go.

rosemary potatoes

Russ went rogue and ordered from the Specials Menu getting the Chicken Italiano Sandwich, substituting Spanish Fries in place of the regular variety. This monstrosity was assembled on a toasted cheese focaccia bread with grilled chicken breast, roasted red peppers, broccoli rabe, oregano, garlic, grilled tomato, salami, melted provolone and smothered with a roasted garlic aioli. A valiant effort was put forth to finish it, but while he was able to knock off the sandwich, Russ had to surrender at least half of those fries to take a ride home with my leftover burrito.

chicken italiano sandwich

Even though none of us ordered from the Sweet section of the menu, I couldn’t help but gape at the heaping portions as the waiters brought out French Toast orders (Crème Brûlée, Stuffed Salted Caramel Banana, Stuffed Cookie Dough), Red Velvet Pancakes, and Belgian Waffles. I think I gained 10 pounds just looking at them!

I highly recommend trying out Green Eggs for brunch if you happen to be in Philly. The other three locations are at Dickinson Street in South Philly, Locust Street in Midtown Village, and Gaul Street in the Port Richmond section.

Crack for Peanut Butter and Chocolate Lovers

Want to indulge in the irresistible combination of peanut butter and chocolate? Oh hell yes! A perfect sweet treat even for gluten-free eaters, as their is no flour. In an online search featuring the winning combo, I ran across an adaptation of a Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie recipe from Trish on her “Mom On Timeout” blog.

Basically I never eat dessert, but I love to bake and try out new recipes. However, I do indulge in dark chocolate occasionally, and love peanuts. I first made these for a “girl’s weekend” and let’s just say, they were an instant hit.

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Making these triggered an “aha” moment as to what I would bring to an upcoming Seder, which of course does not allow flour. (The family is not kosher.)

My over-the-top addition was a smattering of Reese’s pieces and mini peanut butter cups as a final flourish, not only for color, but because who doesn’t like more peanut butter and chocolate?? Did you know you can purchase these packaged together in the baking section of your local supermarket? Imagine them in cookies, on top of vanilla ice cream, or just straight from the bag. I know, these are a lethal diet buster…

IMG_2369I sliced the little “cups” in half before sprinkling over the ganache.

Just before I popped the brownies into the oven to bake, I realized I neglected to add the mini chocolate chips to the batter, so I quickly spread a cupful on top. For the ganache, the store was out of bittersweet and I didn’t want to use semisweet or unsweetened so I bought “special dark chocolate” instead.

The aroma is heavenly, so waiting until they are frosted and completely cooled is akin to torture. Yielding the most decadent, fudgy, rich and chewy brownie EVER, you’ll want to make these time and again; and they don’t even require a mixer!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownies

  • Servings: 25 squares
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

Peanut Butter Filling

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature

Brownies

  • 12 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Gancahe

  • 10 oz bittersweet chocolate (or special dark), chopped or chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper leaving an overhang for easy removal. Set aside.
  3. Peanut Butter Filling—In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, sugar, and egg. Mix until throughly combined. Set aside.

Brownies

  1. In a large bowl, combine chocolate chips and butter. Melt in 30-second increments, on high heat in the microwave, stirring in between.
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  2. Stir in sugar and vanilla until completely combined.
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  3. Add eggs one a time, stirring in between until combined.
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  4. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt.
  5. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir vigorously until the mixture is smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. This will take one or two minutes.
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  6. Stir in the mini chocolate chips.
  7. Pour two-thirds of the brownie batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  8. Drop small spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownie batter.
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  9. Spoon on remaining brownie batter and smooth with the back of a spoon or offset spatula. It doesn’t have to be perfect. (If you forgot to stir in the mini chips, add them now.)
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  10. Bake for 33-37 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. (Watch the brownies closely after 30 minutes. Don’t rely on the time so much as the inserted toothpick. Mine took 38 minutes.)
  11. Let brownies cool completely on a cooling rack or in the fridge.IMG_2416

Ganache

  1. Place bittersweet (or special dark) chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.
  2. Heat whipping cream until scalding hot and pour over the top of the chocolate.
  3. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes and then stir until smooth. (If chocolate hasn’t melted all the way, heat on high heat in 15 second intervals in the microwave, stirring in between, until chocolate is fully melted.)
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  4. Pour mixture over the top of the cooled brownies and use an offset spatula to spread over the top until smooth. Sprinkle on the Reeses’s pieces.
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  5. Refrigerate until the ganache has completely set up.
  6. Use the parchment paper overhang to pull the brownies out and cut 5 rows across and 5 rows down to make 25, 1 3/4″ (approximately) squares.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

The Sauce That Sings!

Both mustard and cabbage have a natural affinity with the sweet, nutty flavor of pork. Cook’s Country posted a quick cooking, easy-to-prepare main course in which the three were combined. The meal starts with thin pork chops—about 1/4 inch thick— sautéed on the stovetop. Then cabbage is roasted in the oven to crisp the leaves and concentrate its flavors. Finally, drizzling the cabbage with melted butter before roasting helps with browning and flavor.

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Mustard Pork Chops with Crispy Cabbage and Fingerlings couldn’t be simpler! To complete the meal I added fingerling potatoes on the rimmed baking sheet with the cabbage. I just included another tablespoon of melted butter and some chopped fresh thyme and both veggies were fork tender in about 25 minutes. (Turn the oven off and cover with foil if they are done before your meat and sauce.)

With just two of us, I only cooked four thin pork chops (original recipe calls for six) but kept the remainder of the ingredients the same because we wanted the extra sauce. OMG, and that sauce (swoon)! While the overall color palette of the meal is a tad anemic, the sauce makes up for that in spades, because the flavor sings in harmony on your taste buds.

All of my changes are indicated in the recipe below.

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Mustard Pork Chops with Crispy Cabbage and Fingerlings

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ½ large head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch wedges (core left intact)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons melted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 thin bone-in pork chops (1/4″ thick), trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 ½ tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 3/4 fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place cabbage wedges and potato halves on a baking sheet (I lined it with parchment paper for easy clean-up), drizzle with melted butter, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and chopped thyme.
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  3. Roast until cabbage and potatoes are browned around edges and fork tender, about 25 minutes.
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  4. Meanwhile, pat pork chops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil and remaining 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet over high heat until foaming subsides.
  5. Cook 2 chops until well browned on both sides, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer chops to serving plate and cover tightly with foil. Repeat with remaining 2 chops.
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  6. Discard fat in pan. Add broth and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened, 4 to 6 minutes.
  7. Add cream, swirling to incorporate.
  8. Place pork chops and accumulated juices in skillet, simmer until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
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  9. Remove chops to serving platter, cover with foil. Stir mustard into sauce, season with salt and pepper, and simmer rapidly for 1 or 2 minutes to thicken.
  10. Pour sauce over chops, cabbage and potatoes. Sprinkle with more thyme if desired and serve.
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http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Country

 

Make It Tonight, and Make It Quick

This dish, Shrimp, Chickpeas and Spinach with Ginger and Cumin has the essence of a long-cooked soup or stew, but takes only a fraction of the time to make. Onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, cilantro, and a pinch of cayenne punch up the flavor—but not enough for us. While the flavors are good in this dish, they’re extremely subtle, so you may want to pump up the volume of some of the spices. (The amounts we included are noted in blue in the list of ingredients.) 

Instead of a skillet, we used our carbon steel, flat-bottomed wok because we thought it a more appropriate cooking vessel. And always looking for ways to increase flavor, in Step 4 where 1 1/2 cups of water is called for, we substituted vegetable broth—but chicken or seafood broth could also be incorporated.

Make It Tonight suggests serving it with Lemony Rice with Scallions (recipe follows), and that sounded just fine with us. Cook your rice according to directions, but add the zest of half a lemon. When done, add thinly sliced-on-a-diagonal scallions and the juice of half a lemon. Ladle the “stew”over the rice.

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Shrimp, Chickpeas and Spinach with Ginger and Cumin

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb. (1 lb.) large shrimp (31 to 40 count), peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large lemon, cut into 5 wedges
  • 1 small (medium) onion (about 4 oz.), chopped
  • 1-1/2 (2) Tbs. finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 small (3 large) cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. (1 1/2 tsp.) ground cumin
  • Pinch (1/2 tsp.) cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups water (we used vegetable broth)
  • 1 14- to 16-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 10 oz. (1 lb.) mature spinach, well washed, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

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After a few minutes of stir-frying, the shrimp are moved to a platter and dashed with a squeeze of lemon.

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Next, chopped onion is stir-fried for 5 minutes or so.

IMG_5397Cumin and cayenne are cooked fragrant. Next add 1-1/2 cups waterm(or broth) and the chickpeas. Simmer over medium-high heat for 5 minutes to develop the flavors.

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Carefully toss the spinach and cilantro to help them cook evenly and wilt, about 2 minutes.

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, toss the shrimp with 1/2 tsp. salt. Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the shrimp and cook until one side is pink, about 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and continue to cook until pink all over, still a bit translucent in the center, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Take the skillet off the heat and transfer the shrimp to a plate. Squeeze one of the lemon wedges over the shrimp.
  3. Put the skillet over medium heat. Pour the remaining 1 Tbs. oil into the skillet, then add the onion. Sprinkle with a big pinch of salt and cook until the edges of the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the cumin and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add 1-1/2 cups water, the chickpeas, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Simmer over medium-high heat for 5 minutes to develop the flavors.
  5. Using a potato masher, mash about half of the chickpeas right in the pan. Add the spinach and cilantro. Using tongs, carefully toss the greens to help them cook evenly and wilt, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the reserved shrimp and any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Cook for another 1 or 2 minutes to reheat the shrimp and cook them fully (be careful not to overcook them).
  7. Season with salt to taste. Portion into warm bowls and serve with the remaining lemon wedges on the side.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from the “Make It Tonight” series by Joanne Smart from Fine Cooking

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Lemony Rice Pilaf with Scallions

This simple side dish is perfect for those nights when you have very little in your fridge. Serve with grilled fish, chicken, or shrimp.

Lemony Rice Pilaf with Scallions

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 12 oz. scallions (20 to 24), thinly sliced, whites kept separate from greens
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1-3/4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallion whites, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and simmer to reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until it begins to crackle, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, lemon zest, and 1 tsp. salt; bring to a boil.
  3. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the scallion greens and lemon juice into the rice with a fork and serve.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

By Julissa Roberts from Fine Cooking

NOSHville, Part II: Out on the Town

Once Julia picked us up from the Gaylord Opryland after Russ’s convention ended, we wasted no time in checking out the City of Music’s other culinary hotspots, starting with Tavern the city’s cool-casual, gastro-pub concept, located on Broadway in Midtown. It was an absolutely stellar day outside so we requested an exterior table for four, as fiancée Byron would shortly be joining us.

After cocktails were ordered (no judging, we were on vacation), we decided to split a Starter of their famous Nachos with chile-spiked black beans, a three cheese blend, lots of cheddar cheese, jalapeño rounds, and an addition of “angry chicken” which made for quite possibly the BEST we’ve ever eaten. These puppies were anything but lightly dressed and arrived gorgeously plated. Dig in we did.

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After that, I decided to scale back and get the smaller version of the Baby Wedge with tomatoes, candied pecans, and goat cheese tossed with an Alabama white vinaigrette, and topped with a skewer of four of the most plump and tender chile garlic shrimp—oh my, the memories.

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I must have been so infatuated with this salad that I completely forgot, and have no pictures of, what Julia ate! Must have eventually returned back to earth though because I did photograph Russ’s Seoul Bowl consisting of short ribs and veggies in a spicy beef broth with steamed rice and topped with a soft egg. He couldn’t get enough of it.

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Byron, being an ex-NFL football player has room to consume, so he enjoyed their good-sized Salted Caramel Pork Chop with Brabant “stacked” potatoes and haricot verts. No doggy bag there. After all that, we actually went food shopping to pick up loose ends for the next several days.

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No, we didn’t just eat our way through the vacation, we actually walked many miles a day at different parks and gardens, but this is a food blog after all so I’ll concentrate on that aspect. Julia had taken a few days off from work and was ever-so-kind to schlepp us around and play tour guide.

After one particular trek through Cheekwood Gardens, we decided to enjoy another late lunch outdoors, this time at bartaco, on the infamous 12th Street in the Gulch neighborhood. It is inspired by the beach culture of Brazil, Uruguay and southern California and serves upscale street food with a coastal vibe in a relaxed environment. Julia was very excited to show us this place and has frequented bartaco on numerous occasions.

She gave us the lowdown on how to order. Each table has a set of checklist menus, and you order a la carte so we put our noggins together and came up with a variety of selections that was then given to the waiter. Each item on the menu indicates the number of calories, which helps you stay focused, if so inclined.

For cocktails, it was unanimous, three amazingly delicious bartaco margaritas lovingly made with libélula joven tequila, combier liqueur d’orange, agave syrup and lime juice. OMG, BEST. EVER.

IMG_2238Dad and Julia begin lunch with a toast to the beautiful day.

So what did we eat? How about a “Not Tacos” starter of guac + roja + verde, three divine sauces accompanied by large crisp taco chips. Russ and I could not get over how wonderful the roja sauce was, we are determined to get that recipe somehow (the chef would not divulge). The verde and guacamole were not too shabby either, and whatever was leftover went onto our tacos.

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Speaking of tacos, we ordered a combination of chicken chorizo (green chicken chorizo sausage with tomatillo avocado salsa), mojo pork carnitas (slow-roasted with tangy mojo sauce), crispy rock shrimp (masa-crusted crispy rock shrimp with a remoulade sauce, lemon parsley slaw), and roasted duck (tamarind glaze). They were all splendid so it was difficult to choose a winner. Although still very good, Russ and I decided the duck was probably the least favorite (Julia didn’t try it). Again, I was so caught up in the food, I completely forgot to take pics of the numerous tacos, mea culpa… the two margaritas probably had something to do with that!

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But ironically, the duck quesadilla, shown above, was a fabulous compilation of hand-pressed blue corn tortilla stuffed with roasted duck, tomatillo sauce, caramelized onions, oaxaca and cotija cheeses. Another side that Julia insisted on was the street corn fritters with charred corn, oaxaca and cotija cheeses, roasted poblanos, and a elote mayo for dipping. She and her dad loved them, while they were a bit too rich for me, but nonetheless tasty.

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OK, you know I’m not a dessert person, but given the fact that the food was soooo good, Russ just had to try their churros, shown below. He and Julia split the four pastries with a melted chocolate sauce for dipping, and claimed them excellent. Can we put in a request to open one of these restaurants back home?

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Our last night in Noshville was a Friday so the four of us wanted to try something new and different. After hours of scrolling online, Julia sent us links to a few places neither she nor Byron had gone, and that might appeal to us. The winner was The Mockingbird, a modern diner with global fare, funky touches and wicked fun. Their unusual menu is what won us over.

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Problem was, we couldn’t get a res until 8:30, so we decided to kill two birds with one trip and have rooftop cocktails beforehand at Rarebirds, in the Noelle Hotel overlooking downtown with a clear view of the AT&T Batman Building and Nissan Stadium.

IMG_2272Russ and future son-in-law Byron get comfy while Julia and I warm up by the fire.
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A few cocktails later, and after chats with a couple from Boston, it was time to make the short drive over to The Mockingbird on 12th Avenue North. The restaurant plays with a special sense of whimsy that is evoked in their menu. Playful in nature, each dish is a nod to the experience that the owners want their diners to have—and boy did we have fun!

IMG_2274One of the rooms sports loud floral wallpaper while the ladies room showcases some interesting fixtures.
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Where to begin? Our indulgent feast commenced with a complementary dish of toasted baguettes with a savory relish topping—extremely tasty IMHO. And of course Julia had to sample their signature drink, Tequila Mockingbird (don’t you just love the title?) concocted with fidencio mezcal, tequila, lime and an egg white embellished with an image of a mockingbird. 

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For some Small Plates we chose Rice, Rice, Baby—round balls plated in a ceramic egg carton made with pimento cheese, arancini, pickled pepper, grilled scallion and chamoy. Russ and Julia loved ’em, Byron and I not so much.

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Feeling Grate! Julia and Byron adore Mac & Cheese, and here it is richly made with cheddar, gruyere, manchego and persillade.

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Sea SeñorSteamed mussels is a Russ favorite, and these were presented in a caramelized fennel-onion cream with Korean chile threads and a Spanish chorizo. They had to bring more crusty bread for us to mop up that luscious sauce.

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All About M.E. was another small plate of Middle eastern spiced Za’atar braised lamb tart, feta, herbs and a summac humus.

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And for me (lowercase 😉 ), the Let’s Get Freekeh, was a mixed green salad with roasted mushrooms, currants and a miso vinaigrette. Nobody other than me wanted this wonderful salad (too healthy?) so I had some leftover for the next morning.

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Hey Dumplin’—Julia is a gnocchi fan, and although they sounded wonderful on the menu with ricotta, milk-braised pork shank, tomato stew, butterbeans, and spinach, she wasn’t really enamored with the dish. She tends to gravitate toward the creamy, cheesy type.

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The Bird is the Word—Byron was full speed ahead with the fried chicken thighs topped with a white (looks orange to me) chorizo gravy over salsa verde mashed potatoes. Then a little pop of color was added with red pickled onions and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.

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And just because, a side of French Fries served with garlic confit aioli and ketchup.

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I din’t think anyone could possibly eat more, but no, the three of them decided dessert was a good idea. Julia and dad shared Chess Pie, something I had never heard of until coming to Nashville. It is gooey, buttery, and supremely sweet, and has been a staple of the Southern dessert table for a couple hundred years.

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Mr. Byron ordered a fancy Vanilla Milkshake complete with oozing chocolate sauce, mounded with whipped cream and topped with what looked like a streusel of some sort. Well, let me tell you, by the time we got back to their house, they no longer thought dessert was such a good idea. All that sweetness mixed with lots of rich food and libations… you do the math…

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For our last meal in Nashville, Julia was excited to take us to one of her favorite brunch places, Urban Grub, an indoor-outdoor restaurant-bar located in a renovated carwash in Nashville’s booming 12 South district. A few of the large, glass roll-up doors are still in use. We loved the design of the restaurant which features a rustic elegance filled with custom woodwork, stone fireplaces and rounded booths tucked into intimate corners.

As for the eclectic menu, pastas are made in house in a vintage pasta machine, the meat pantry is well stocked with freshly butchered pigs, goats, lambs and cows, and the meat curing room has slabs of bacon, prosciutto and culatello aging and curing in preparation for its debut on The Grub’s world-class charcuterie boards.

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That famous seafood and charcuterie bar (from 11am to 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays) includes a wide assortment of fresh seafood, house cured charcuterie and unique salads featuring local fruits and vegetables. If I recall correctly, the price varies on how you plate and/or share it. We opted to order from the regular brunch menu starting with a well-made Bloody Mary and a bread basket filled with homemade biscuits and mini chocolate chip muffins, replete with a homemade jam and whipped butter.

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After much deliberation, Julia and I ended up both choosing the superbly delicious Shrimp Omelette stuffed with chorizo and Manchego cheese, although she got the side of cheesy grits and I opted for the home fries, shown below.

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My man Russ excitedly ordered the signature dish Fried Gulf Oyster Bennie plated over coleslaw and smothered with Old Bay hollandaise sauce, accompanied by cheesy grits and a couple of fried oysters.

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I’m going to be perfectly honest here, even though I did think to take a photo, I can’t remember exactly what it is that Byron ordered. An educated guess would be (based on the picture), Sausage, Egg and Biscuit Sliders with a side of fries and dipping sauce.

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We had a couple of hours to kill before heading to the airport so Julia, Russ and I decided to visit Centennial park where an exact replica of the Parthenon is built; glad to walk off some calories and enjoy the sunshine before returning home. It was a good thing this time that they didn’t really serve any food on the airplane because I don’t think we could have managed another bite—or that it would have come close in quality to what we’d been used to the past week.

So if you plan on heading to Nashville in the future, don your cowboy boots (or buy some there, the choices are tremendous), practice your twang, and plan to belly up to the bar and strap on your feed bag. Perhaps some of the aforementioned culinary establishments will be on your gastronomic list of things to do…

Plan a winder of time so y’all can be fixin’ to experience some of that Southern charm in Noshville!

 

 

 

NOSHville, Part I: Opryland.

Popularly known as the “City of Music,” Nashville—who some purportedly say is growing at a rate of more than 100 people per day—is also often described as the “Athens of the South.” While we are all aware of its expansive music scene, the talent and creativity of its culinary landscape has recently put Nashville on the foodie map. And we were ready to experience it first hand.

Our first trip to “NashVegas” was 4 months ago for a quick Thanksgiving trip to visit daughter Julia and her fiancée Byron who live just outside the city limits in Brentwood. While the turkey dinner was of course the highlight, we did enjoy a few meals out, one of them being Tupelo Honey (located in Franklin) where Fried Chicken dinners reigned supreme for most of our dining party. (Hot Chicken is a Nashville staple cuisine.)

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But I digress, this is about our most current visit which was prompted by Hubby Russ’s annual NatCon Conference at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, one of the few places able to accommodate 6,000 attendees. WOW, it is massive at 9 acres, plus 4 acres of combined indoor and outdoor water attractions, and the convention center! It’s actually the largest non-gaming hotel in the continental U.S., meaning you get Vegas resort size without a smoky casino to walk through. A MUST is to simply take a long stroll—drink in hand—and tour the resort’s soaring atriums decked out with decorations, lights, lush vegetation and water features.

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Upon arrival, and after registering for the conference, we had several hours to kill before meeting Russ’s coworker, David Greenspan and his lovely wife Lisa for an evening cocktail. A bit hungry, we settled on splitting some homemade guacamole and chips at the Solario Cantina, where you can enjoy bold Mexican flavors, their signature margaritas and more than 100 tequilas, conveniently located in the Garden Conservatory Atrium.

IMG_2104Solaria, at the slow time between lunch and dinner, was delightfully empty as we enjoyed our guac and chips on the patio with a view of the suspended garden walkway.
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Newly sated, we walked off some of those calories with a jaw-dropping stroll trying to figure out the lay of the land. The vicinity is so vast, there are actually workers who’s sole job is to point clueless and dazed guests to their intended destinations. To enhance our navigation, we downloaded the Gaylord App which takes you, literally, step-by-step from wherever you are to exactly where you want to end up. (Printed site maps are also available.)

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Time for that drink! Located in Garden Cascades Atrium, The Falls Bar & Lounge offers a tapas-style menu, wines, hand-crafted cocktails, bottled beer and chilled champagne in a breathtaking setting overlooking twin waterfalls, shown above. After which, at the appropriated time, we meandered up to Old Hickory Steakhouse, a nod to President Andrew Jackson’s nickname, and features 1855 Black Angus Beef seared to perfection, plus artisan cheeses and an extensive wine list in the Delta Atrium. (Have you noted this is the third atrium I mentioned? There are four total!)

IMG_2109Russ, David and Lisa smile as we wait for dinner to begin at Old Hickory.

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Dinner started with a lovely bread basket brimming with crusty rolls and flatbreads. Lisa, who prefers a plant-based diet, chose the Shawarma-spiced Roasted Cauliflower with a coconut quinoa, romesco and mint chutney entrée. I was not ravenous at that point so I opted for a Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Starter which was accompanied by a lemon-basil remoulade and house pickled vegetables (and even had leftovers). From the Shareable Sides we unanimously agreed upon the to-die-for Roasted Mushrooms in a red-wine reduction and some perfectly cooked steamed Asparagus.

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For the men, what’s a steakhouse if you don’t order steak? So they strapped on their macho swagger and both indulged in a he-man-sized Hermitage Selection 24-ounce Porterhouse Steak. Not for the faint of heart (or small appetite), these babies made a statement on the plate. However, Russ uncommonly admitted, it was too rare for his liking. And other than two rather bland looking cipollini onions, I felt the presentation lacked in visual appeal, especially at that price—like could they have tossed on some green herbs or something?

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The following day while the men attended the conference, Lisa and I decided to take a walk by The Grand Ole Opry, shown below, and then do some shopping at the nearby mall, where some great bargains were to be had—although the purchases were taxed at a hefty 9.25% (7% state, 2.25% county).

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Lisa and David, who arrived a day ahead of us, mentioned that they attended a moonshine-tasting experience at the Smith Creek Moonshine outlet right in the mall. So when we decided to do lunch at the Rainforest Café, practically next door, Lisa coaxed me into it.

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Filled with some trepidation recalling not-so-pleasant memories of imbibing in moonshine decades ago, I put my hesitation aside—when in Rome, right? I was more than surprised how good they were! After sampling over a dozen tiny thimblefuls, this experience rated on the other end of the spectrum, so much so, that I bought a jar of the ever-so-smooth Coffee Smith Creek Moonshine (my personal fave), and I’m not even a coffee drinker!

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The following night Russ and I were on our own for dinner and we decided you can’t be in Nashville without chowing down on some good old fashioned BBQ, which at the Opryland means Jack Daniels. (Speaking of Old Fashions, that became Russ’ signature drink on this vacay.)

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It’s a sin not to start with fried chicken wings, right? Well, at least it felt that way to Russ, so we put in an order for their Habanero Jack Daniel’s Barbecue Sauce Wings which came plated on a small rimmed baking sheet (as did most other dishes). Frankly, while they were tasty enough, I prefer extra-crispy, spicy, dry-rubbed wings with a dipping sauce or two.

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Not wanting a full-on dinner, I chose a bowl of JD’s Chicken Chili made with white beans, smoked chicken, tomatillo, green chili and a couple of jalapeño hush puppies added to the plate for good measure. Russ wasn’t going to be satisfied until he had the Smokehouse Favorite Hickory Smoked BBQ Pulled Pork meal. With this, he had a choice of two sides and opted for the typical combination of cole slaw and baked beans. My chili was quite good (although the temp could have been hotter), and Russ loved his!

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My gal-pal Lisa had flown the coop back to Philly so I was on my own for lunch on the next day of the conference. For the past several, I had been eyeballing Cascades that sits in a dramatic atrium setting surrounded by soothing waterfalls, shown below. When they opened for lunch at 11:15, there was already an impressive line of people!

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Craving something on the lighter side, it didn’t take me long to zero in on the Mediterranean Butter Lettuce salad plated with cucumber, olive tapenade, Parmigiano-Reggiano, crispy garbanzo beans, and lemon-oregano vinaigrette. It also comes with an add on choice of chicken, shrimp or salmon; I chose the latter. While it may not look like much, I told my husband later that it was likely one of the BEST salads I’ve ever eaten, and believe me, I’ve eaten more than my share, willingly of course 😉

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That evening for dinner, with Lisa gone, David, Russ and I hopped a cab (what an experience that was) to Monell’s at the Manor near the airport. David had a hankering for fried chicken and heard this family-style restaurant was the place to go. A slow night when we arrived (it was on the earlier side), they seated us immediately at a long farm table with one other couple from Kentucky. There were already a couple of bowls filled with a broccoli salad and a cole slaw which we eagerly dug into. The other couple realized we may be first-timers and warned us to pace ourselves as there was a lot more to come.

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Boy they weren’t kidding! On top of platters of fried chicken, we also received mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potato mash, corn-fritter mash, biscuits with honey and jam, stuffed shells (rather odd I thought), and a large bowl of banana pudding with cookies for dessert. For beverages they serve sweet tea, lemonade or water. We did notice a few wine bottles for purchase at the hostess station, but not until on the way out as we waited for our Lyft driver.

IMG_2159Above is the grand foyer where we waited for our ride back to the resort. I didn’t take pictures of the food as the family-style serving didn’t really lend itself to doing so.

OK, family-style is generally not my cup of tea, and this was no exception. The food was good, not great in my opinion, and I just think there is so much waste, but according to locals, there are often long wait lines. (They also serve breakfast, lunch, and host weddings and other special catered events.) BTW, our Lyft driver raved about Monell’s, go figure.

The final day of the conference ended in the early afternoon so we arranged for late check out and waited for Julia to pick us up after she left work from Vanderbilt Medical Center. Now the real “Noshing in Nashville” would begin. Stay tuned for Part II coming soon…

Italian-Style Braised Lamb Steaks

I made a snap decision purchase at Costco not long ago when I saw boneless leg-of-lamb selling at a very reasonable price. Together The Mr. and I cut it down into 6 steaks and a 2-lb. package of cubes for future meals—the first of which was Italian-Style Braised Lamb Steaks. Here, an herby, tomato-rich base brings out the full flavor of the lamb.

Even after braising in the oven for nearly an hour, we felt the sauce was too thin. I placed the steaks in a covered container to stay warm and reduced the sauce on the stovetop for another 15-20 minutes for a thicker consistency. Then I nestled the lamb into the mixture for a few minutes more to warm through before serving.

You may think four red onions is a bit excessive, but they were sooo good and practically melted in our mouths. Plus we had leftovers (I made four steaks intentionly for another meal) and served the second round with green beans and cheesy polenta which was the perfect bed for those luscious onions and sauce.

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Italian-Style Braised Lamb Steaks

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp rapseseed oil
  • 4 red onions, quartered
  • 4 lamb steaks, fat trimmed
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Large sprig rosemary, torn into pieces, plus a little to serve or 1 level tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 heaping tsp. oregano
  • 1 lamb stock cube dissolved in 2 cups water
  • 1 15-oz. can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Large pinch pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Add 1 tsp of the oil to a pan over a low-medium heat, add the onions and gently brown for 3-4 minutes, turning regularly. Set aside.
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  3. Coat the lamb in flour and add the remaining oil to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
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  4. Return the onions to the pan, add the garlic, rosemary and oregano. Stir in the stock and bring to a gentle boil.
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  5. Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and pepper.
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  6. Place in an ovenproof dish and cook for 45-50 minutes. (If necessary, remove the steaks to a covered dish and reduce the sauce to thicken per your preference.)
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  7. Garnish with a little fresh rosemary and serve.
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    Round one with roasted potatoes and a side of broccolini.

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