Spiced Lamb Burgers with Feta and Tahini Sauce

It is rare that Flint, Michigan—my home town until I went away to college—is mentioned in a positive light, so this recipe caught my attention. Here, Milk Street FB Community member Jennifer Wozniak of Flint, drizzles tahini onto lamb burgers that she spices up with sumac, cumin and red pepper flakes. Then the burgers are served topped with feta cheese and sandwiched in brioche buns.

Milk Street took it a step further and played up the Middle Eastern flavor profile by spiking the tahini with Greek yogurt, lemon juice and more sumac, then spreads the mixture like mayonnaise on each bun half. We like to top the burgers with lettuce, tomato and possibly thinly sliced red onion.

Words to the wise, don’t buy crumbled feta cheese. Look for it sold in a block so it can be sliced into slabs for layering onto the burgers. Also, be sure to chill the patties before cooking. This firms them up so they’re easier to handle.

Spiced Lamb Burgers with Feta and Tahini Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • ⅔ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. plus ¼ tsp. ground sumac, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 3 Tbsp. tahini
  • 3 Tbsp. plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 4 brioche buns or hamburger buns, split and toasted
  • 4 oz. block feta cheese, sliced into 4 even slabs

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the panko, 1 tablespoon sumac, cumin, pepper flakes, yolks, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and ¼ cup water. Using a fork, mash the mixture until evenly moistened and well combined.
  2. Add the lamb and mix with your hands until well combined. Form into 4 evenly sized patties, each about 4 inches in diameter, then place on a large plate and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, the remaining ¼ teaspoon sumac and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside.
  4. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the patties and cook until well browned on the bottoms, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip each patty, reduce to medium-low and cook until well browned on the second sides and the centers reach 160°F, another 5 to 7 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a clean plate, tent with foil and let rest for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the tahini sauce on the bun halves. Sandwich the burgers in the buns, placing a slice of feta on each patty.

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Recipe adapted from Milk Street

Flourless Chocolate Torta

The Hubs decided to treat himself with dessert for Father’s Day and when he eyeballed this Flourless Chocolate Torta in the latest Milk Street magazine, he knew it was the ticket! Rich, light and flourless, this Italian cake is a fudgy, brownie-like dessert created by Eugenio Gollini of the medieval town of Vignola back in 1886.

In reinventing this cake, Milk Street found that peanut flour, one of the most distinctive ingredients of the original Gollini torta, could be omitted without sacrificing flavor or texture. Instead they use almond flour which provides an equally flavorful and moist cake—and is much easier to source.

Instant espresso powder accentuates the deep, roasty, bitter notes and a dose of dark rum lifts the flavors with its fieriness. Serve with lightly sweetened mascarpone, whipped cream, or with vanilla gelato or ice cream—in our case, it was with a non-dairy oat vanilla brand that our lactose intolerant guests loved.

Don’t use natural cocoa. The recipe will still work, but the cake will be lighter in color and not quite as deep in flavor as when made with Dutch-processed cocoa. Take care not to overbake the cake. Remove it from the oven when a toothpick inserted at the center comes out with a few sticky crumbs clinging to it. After 30 to 45 minutes of cooling, the cake is inverted out of the pan; don’t worry about re-inverting it. True torta Barozzi is left upside-down for cutting and serving.

Don’t forget that the eggs need to be room temperature.

Flourless Chocolate Torta

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • 10 Tbsp. salted butter, cut into 10 pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • ¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
  • 1 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
  • 4 large eggs, separated, room temperature
  • ¾ cup white sugar, divided
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 3 Tbsp. dark rum

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Butter an 8-inch square pan, line the bottom with a parchment square and butter the parchment.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, cocoa and espresso powder. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to soften, then whisk until the mixture is smooth; cool until barely warm to the touch.
  3. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and ½ cup of the sugar until lightened and creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until homogeneous. Add the almond flour and salt, then whisk until fully incorporated. Whisk in the rum; set aside.
  4. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-high until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar, then beat until the whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add about a third of the whipped whites to the yolk-chocolate mixture and fold with a silicone spatula to lighten and loosen the base. Scrape on the remaining whites and gently fold in until no streaks remain. Transfer to the prepared pan and gently shake or tilt the pan to level the batter.
  6. Bake until the cake is slightly domed and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 to 45 minutes; the cake will deflate slightly as it cools.
  7. Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert onto a platter; if needed, peel off and discard the parchment. Cool completely. Dust with cocoa before serving.

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Recipe adapted by Rose Hattabaugh for Milk Street

Flank Steak with Tomato-Eggplant Ragu

Don’t you just love one-pan meals? Here’s one from Milk Street that borrowed some of the flavors of Greek moussaka. Although a traditional Greek Moussaka recipe has luscious layers of juicy ground beef or lamb cooked in a tomato based sauce, layered with sweet eggplants and potatoes, topped off with a creamy béchamel sauce and baked until perfectly golden, this a fantastic riff.

Here, seared flank steak is finished with a rustic sauce-like side of eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Crumbled feta cheese adds briny notes that contrast nicely with the sweetness of the vegetables and the richness of the beef. Crusty bread, rice or potatoes are good side dish choices if you’re not counting carbs.

We had both flank steak and flap meat in our freezer, and, you guessed it, I did’t realize until after the meat had thawed that I removed flap steaks. Both started with “fla” and that is all that I saw on the package so I’m giving myself an out that it was an easy mistake. In fact, since we prefer the beefy taste of flap meat, it was serendipitous! Please note that flap meat needs an extra couple of minutes in the pan to reach temperature.

Keep in mind, you don’t want to drain the juices from the tomatoes. The liquid helps form the sauce and prevents the eggplant from drying out so that the pieces become silky-soft. When slicing the flank steak for serving, make sure to slice it against the grain for the tenderest texture.

Absolutely delicious! We could wax poetic for days on what a wonderful dish it was!

recipe title=”Flank Steak with Tomato-Eggplant Ragu” servings=”4″ time=”35 min” difficulty=”easy”]

Ingredients

  • 1½ lbs. flank steak or flap meat, trimmed, halved lengthwise, then crosswise
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1b. eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 14½ oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped
  • 1½ oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about ⅓ cup)

Directions

  1. Season the steak with salt and pepper. In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the steak and brown on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total (8-10 minutes for flap meat), flipping the pieces once. An instant-read thermometer should show 125° for medium-rare. Transfer to a moated cutting board and cover with foil.
  2. In the same pan over medium-high, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the eggplant and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and softened, 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Reduce to medium and add the tomatoes with juices, the garlic, oregano and cinnamon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and the eggplant has begun to break down, about 5 minutes.
  4. Off heat, stir in any accumulated beef juices and half the mint. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and place on a platter. Spoon the eggplant mixture on and around the steak, then sprinkle with feta and the remaining mint.

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[/recipe]

Adapted from a recipe by Julia Rackow for Milk Street

Shrimp, Orzo and Zucchini with Ouzo and Mint

In this Mediterranean recipe, you will coax orzo pasta to a rich, creamy texture, as if making risotto. A fragrant broth* of brandy, aromatic vegetables and shrimp shells is the cooking liquid for the orzo, infusing the dish with richness and subtle sweetness.

The shrimp themselves are added only after the orzo is al dente so they remain plump and tender. This adaptation from Milk Street takes a simple approach to the cooking with fewer ingredients than the Greek original, but retains the delicious, bracing flavors.

Ouzo is a Greek anise-flavored spirit; it’s added at the very end of cooking to accentuate the licorice notes of the fennel seed. Milk Street suggests that you don’t choose large zucchini for this recipe. Look for small to medium squash (ones that weigh 6 to 8 ounces each), as they have fewer seeds to remove. Well our supermarket didn’t have any smaller ones so we got a large zucchini before reading this tip, and it worked out fine.

To seed the zucchini, use a small spoon to scrape along the center of each half. Also, if making the shrimp broth, when simmering, don’t allow it to boil or simmer vigorously or the liquid will evaporate too quickly and the finished volume will be too slight.

*Since we already had homemade shellfish stock on hand, there was no need to make the broth and thus omitted the red bell pepper, celery and onion, and started at Step 5 with seasoning the shrimp. We also used frozen shrimp without shells since we weren’t making broth. These two things saved a large amount of time in prepping and cooking. We did however add the brandy to our homemade stock and included the bay leaves in the cooking process.

Shrimp, Orzo and Zucchini with Ouzo and Mints

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. extra-large (21/25 per pound) shrimp, peeled (tails removed) and deveined, shells reserved
  • 3 medium celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb. total), halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 lb. ripe plum or cocktail tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon ouzo
  • 1½ tsp. grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped

Directions

  1. In a large pot over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring just once or twice, until bright pink and dry, 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add the celery, bell pepper, onion, bay and ¼ teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to release moisture, 2 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the brandy and scrape up any browned bits. Add 4 cups water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Cool for about 10 minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve set over a 1-quart liquid measuring cup or medium bowl; press on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible (discard the solids). You should have about 3 cups strained broth.
  5. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; set aside. In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the orzo and stir to coat.
  6. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, fennel seeds, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes begin to release their liquid, 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Add 1½ cups shrimp broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 6 minutes; reduce the heat as the mixture thickens.
  8. Add another 1 cup broth and cook, stirring vigorously and adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer, until the orzo is tender and the consistency is slightly soupy, 3 to 6 minutes.
  9. Add the shrimp and another ¼ cup broth, then cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 3 minutes.
  10. Remove the pot from the heat. Remove and discard the bay, then stir in the ouzo and lemon zest. If desired, thin the consistency by stirring in additional broth, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the mint.

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This was an adaptation of a recipe by Courtney Hill for Milk Street

Vietnamese Braised Lemongrass Chicken

With a penchant toward bold flavors, this recipe from Milk Street appealed to us from the get-go. Typically, bone-in chicken thighs are also sold with the skin on. Simply remove it before cooking, and if you make homemade chicken stock, save it with your other body parts for the next time you throw some together.

In Vietnam, turmeric, garlic, chilies and fish sauce—staple ingredients in the Vietnamese kitchen—douse chicken with a riot of flavor and provide that gorgeous caramel coloring. The other main ingredient, lemongrass, is a grass of robust habit native to southern India and Ceylon that is grown in tropical regions for its lemon-scented foliage used as a seasoning and that is the source of an aromatic essential oil.

Luckily, instead of mincing fresh lemongrass, which requires a good amount of time and effort, simply bruise the stalks so they split open and release their essential oils into the braising liquid; then remove and discard the stalks when cooking is complete.

The soy sauce was an addition to the Milk Street recipe, a stand-in for the MSG and pork bouillon. The braising liquid is thickened with a little cornstarch to give the sauce just a little body. Serve the chicken with steamed jasmine rice.

Simply stated, 2 1⁄2 pounds of bone-in chicken is not enough for four adults. Plan on eight large thighs, no matter the weight. I went ahead and incorporated this change in the list of ingredients below.

Heads Up: Don’t leave the skin on the chicken. The bone adds flavor to the braise, but not the skin, which turns soggy with simmering and releases fat into the liquid. But bone-in thighs are almost always sold with skin, so simply pull it off before cooking.

Vietnamese Braised Lemongrass Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Fresno or jalapeño chilies, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. ground turmeric
  • 3 stalks fresh lemongrass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp. water, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, skin removed and discarded, patted dry
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • Ground black pepper
  • Cilantro and/or sliced scallions, to serve

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic, chilies and turmeric, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the lemongrass, broth, soy sauce, sugar and 1 cup water, then bring to a simmer. Add the chicken skinned side down in even layer and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets no resistance, 30 to 40 minutes.
  3. Using tongs, transfer the chicken skinned side up to a serving bowl. Cook the braising liquid over medium until reduced by about half, about 12 minutes. Remove and discard the lemon grass.In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water. Whisk the mixture into the braising liquid, return to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly thickened, about 1 minute.
  4. Off heat, stir the lime juice and fish sauce into the braising liquid, then taste and season with pepper. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the pot, cover and let stand until heated through, about 5 minutes. Return the braise to the serving bowl and sprinkle with cilantro.

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Recipe adapted by Diane Unger for Milk Street

Sagey White Bean Dip

What are the secrets to transforming a can of humble white beans into an elegant appetizer—especially if your guests follow a gluten-free and/or vegan diet? Creamy, nutritious and infused with sage, lemon and garlic, this Sagey White Bean Dip is so versatile! Amazing as a dip, yes, but also great on sandwiches!

Smelling the amazing aroma as the sage leaves sizzle is just the start—something magical happens when they fry—the flavor becomes more subdued and a bit toasty. Often, white bean dips appear as a chalky and bland alternative to hummus, typically why it’s not one of my favorite appetizers. But this riff definitely raises the bar.

Ours was served with gluten-free crackers, bell red pepper strips and carrot sticks, and guests went crazy over the dip! The final consistency is a little loose, however just decrease the amount of water to thicken the dip if desired.

Sagey White Bean Dip

  • Servings: Yields 1 1/4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 10 sage leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 15-oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch salt

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. When hot, add the sage leaves, chopped garlic and red pepper flakes. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring a few times.
  2. Add the drained cannellini beans and water. (if you want a thicker dip, use less water.) Warm through, about 2 minutes. Purée in a small food processor.
  3. Transfer into a small serving bowl and stir in the lemon juice and salt. Cover and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Uncover, drizzle with a little bit more olive oil, garnish with a sage leaf and serve with your choice of chips and/or veggies.
  5. You can make the dip up to 24 hours in advance, but wait to drizzle it with oil until right before serving.

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Pasta e Piselli (Pasta and Peas)

Recipe adapted from one found in a recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine, the traditional Italian dish Pasta e Piselli, like its better-known cousins pasta e fagioli and pasta e ceci, combines peas with small pasta to form a hearty soup; all of which come together in one pot. Always a plus for a weeknight meal.

The pasta is cooked in a broth flavored with sautéed onion and savory pancetta, simultaneously infusing the pasta with savoriness and thickening the rich, silky broth. As well as using homemade chicken stock, we doubled the pancetta to four ounces, both of which provided more depth of flavor.

At the end of the cooking process, frozen petite peas (sweeter and less starchy than fresh peas), are added—in our case it was 2 cups as opposed to 1 1⁄2 cups because that was the contents of the bag. Immediately afterward, the pot is taken off the heat to preserve their tenderness and bright green color.

A sprinkle of Pecorino Romano contributes richness and tangy depth. Last-minute additions of minced herbs and extra-virgin olive oil punch up the aroma and flavors of the dish. You can substitute small pasta such as tubetti, ditali, elbow macaroni, or small shells for the ditalini, but do so by weight, not by volume.

TIP: For a vegetarian version, omit the pancetta, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and add an extra 2 tablespoons of grated cheese. Pecorino Romano adds a welcome sharpness. Cook’s Illustrated does not recommend substituting Parmesan in this recipe.

Pasta e Piselli (Pasta and Peas)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 4 oz. pancetta, chopped fine
  • ½ tsp. table salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 2½ cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 2½ cups water
  • 7½ oz. (1½ cups) ditalini
  • 1½ to 2 cups frozen petite peas
  • ⅓ cup minced fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh mint

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, pancetta, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add broth and water and bring to boil over high heat. Stir in pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid returns to boil. Reduce heat to maintain simmer; cover; and cook until pasta is al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in peas and remove saucepan from heat. Stir in parsley, Pecorino, and mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling with extra oil and passing extra Pecorino separately.

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Adapted from a recipe by Cook’s Illustrated

Grilled Beef Kebabs and Veggie Skewers with Aromatic Couscous

Here’s a typical meal for outdoor grilling with a couscous side dish made on the stovetop while the meat and vegetables are getting happy. If you are not a red meat eater, you can always switch out the beef for boneless, skinless chicken pieces. The dry-rub will work just as well on poultry.

The beef kebabs were 2″ cubes cut down from a 2-lb. top sirloin. The meat was tossed in a dry rub of ground up 1 Tbsp. mustard seed, 1 1⁄2 tsp. black peppercorns, 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary and 1 tsp. kosher salt; then divided onto four metal skewers and put in the refrigerator, uncovered for eight hours.

It is best to use long metal skewers. If all you have are the wooden ones, make sure to soak them in water for an hour, and you may have to use several more because they are typically shorter than their metal counterparts.

Veggie skewers are a particular favorite of ours especially during the warmer months when we can grill outside. While the cocktail tomatoes (1 lb.) and mushroom caps (12 oz.) are left whole, the bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow) are cut into 2″ pieces, and the 2 red onions into 8 wedges each, with the root end intact. Make the marinade with 2⁄3 cup olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano snipped from the garden.

Place the tomatoes and mushrooms in one ziploc, the onion and bell pepper in another, and divide the oil mixture between the two bags. Let marinate at least one hour, up to eight hours, turning each bag a couple of times.

While the grill is warming up—direct heat on one side, indirect on the other—skewer the veggies. Alternate the cocktail tomatoes and mushroom caps on three skewers; then the bell pepper and red onion on another 3 skewers. If you have any random veggies leftover, slide them onto a final skewer.

Put on direct heat side of grill for about 20 minutes, flipping once to char both sides, keeping the lid closed in between. The tomato skewers will get done first so move them over to the indirect heat side of grill. When the onion skewers are nicely charred, pile them up with the tomato skewers and now place the meat skewers on the direct heat and close the lid. The meat is medium-rare when it registers 125° with an instant-read thermometer, about 10-12 minutes.

Originally from Cook’s Illustrated, the couscous recipe called for three tablespoons of raisins, which we omitted. But curry powder, lime juice, and mint lent depth and brightness to the dish. All said and done, it takes about 15 minutes to make.

Aromatic Couscous

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Aromatic Couscous

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 Tbsp.)
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 tsp.)
  • ½ tsp. curry powder
  • ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ½ cup plain or tri-colored couscous
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh mint, cilantro or parsley
  • 1 ½ tsp. fresh lime juice

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.
  2. Stir in the garlic and curry powder and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the broth. Bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in the couscous and remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  4. Fold the mint (cilantro or parsley) and lime juice into the couscous. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Couscous recipe adapted from one for Cook’s Illustrated

Lynn’s Twice-Baked Potatoes

These twice-baked potatoes have been a family favorite with my step children from the time they were little. Now, as young adults, the spuds are an oft-requested side dish, especially when steaks are the main entrée. I must confess, both their dad and I maintain a certain fondness for them too! They are pretty decadent, so we don’t serve them too often…

In all of these years, I just eyeballed the amount of each ingredient, adjusting as I saw fit. But I finally decided it was time to write down the recipe when an opportune time presented itself with the engagement of the youngest. When confronted with what they wanted as their celebratory dinner choice, David and his lovely fiancée Vikki, asked us if we would make steaks, twice-baked potatoes, asparagus and Tres Leche Cake for dessert. Game on!

Vikki and David toasting to their engagement.

It’s best—although not a deal-breaker—if you bring the butter, blue cheese crumbles, sour cream, and heavy cream to room temperature. When ingredients are different temperatures, they don’t necessarily “play” well together. Plus, when everything is approximately the same temp, they will cook more evenly in the oven.

If you have eight guests for dinner, or just want leftovers, a 13″ x 9″ baking dish will easily hold eight potato halves, so start with four russets instead of three. In this case however, you may want to increase all of the other ingredients by 25%. The potatoes can be assembled a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Remove from fridge about an hour before they go into the oven at 350°F.

Purple chive blossoms are a flavorful, aromatic, and colorful edible flower that will appear at the end of chive stalks in late springtime. Even if you don’t plan on eating them, they make a nice garnish. You can substitute shredded sharp cheddar in place of the blue cheese if you or your guests abhor the latter.

About that Tres Leche Cake, David (mostly) and Vikki (some) had polished off the entire thing before we got up the next morning!

Lynn's Twice-Baked Potatoes

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 3 large Russet potatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, cut into 3 pieces, room temperature
  • 5 oz. crumbled blue cheese, divided into thirds
  • 2 Tbsp. heavy cream or whole milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Chive blossoms for garnish, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Pierce potatoes all over with a fork 4 or 5 times. Rub olive oil all over each potato.
  3. Cook potatoes in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until easily pierced with a paring knife. Let cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Reduce oven heat to 325°F.
  5. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise, and let the steam escape, another 2 minutes. Over a large bowl, carefully scoop out most of the flesh with a spoon, leaving about 1/8″ thickness against the skin.
  6. Add butter, heavy cream, sour cream, salt and pepper to the potatoes and smash with a potato masher until combined but still a bit lumpy. Next, turn in 2/3 of the cheese crumbles and chives, mixing all ingredients together with a large spoon.
  7. Arrange the six potato skins in a casserole/baking dish. Evenly spoon the mixture into the skins. Run an indentation along the center of each and top with the remaining 1/3 blue cheese crumbles.* Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until the tops are a light golden brown.
    *Make Ahead: Once the potatoes are assembled with the mixture and topped with blue cheese, cover with foil and refrigerate until one hour before placed in oven. Preheat oven to 350°F, and once the oven is ready, cook, still covered for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 30 minutes or until the tops are a light golden brown.
  8. Garnish with a chive blossoms, if using. Serve immediately.

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Spicy Shrimp Tom Yum Soup

Originating in Thailand, this soup is a hot and sour bowlful of local ingredients like Thai chili peppers and lemongrass. These are available in Asian markets, but there are swaps that are easier to find in a pinch, if needed. We jokingly called it “Tom Oh-Yum” due to the fact it was St. Patty’s Day when we made it.

This soup usually begins with simmering shrimp shells to make the stock. For a shortcut, simmer lemongrass and galangal with boxed seafood stock; OR use your own homemade shellfish stock, like we did.

Pan-fried dumplings make a nice first course. Often available in the freezer section of supermarkets or Asian grocery stores.

Spicy Shrimp Tom Yum Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 6 cups fish/seafood stock, or vegetable broth
  • 1, 3-inch piece fresh galangal or ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, trimmed and halved crosswise and lengthwise, or 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. refined coconut oil
  • 8 oz. fresh cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 medium fresh Thai or serrano chile peppers, thinly sliced lengthwise*
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped roma tomatoes
  • 1–2 tsp. Asian chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen large shrimp in shells
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Keffir lime leaves (optional)
  • Lime wedges

Directions

  1. In a 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven combine stock, galangal, and lemongrass. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
  2. In Dutch oven heat oil over medium. Add mushrooms, onion, chile peppers, and garlic; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add tomatoes; cook 2 minutes. Stir in chili-garlic sauce; return strained stock. Bring to boiling. Add shrimp; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque.
  4. Top servings with cilantro and, if desired, lime leaves. Serve with lime wedges.

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Original recipe by Laura Marzen for Better Homes and Gardens

Asparagus with Vietnamese Scallion Sauce

Adding fresh allium notes as well as bright green color to any dish, Vietnamese scallion oil, called mỡ hành, is used as a garnish or condiment on a number of different foods, here we are adding it to cooked asparagus.

This version from Milk Street includes savory fish sauce (or soy sauce), pungent ginger and a little sugar to build complexity. Try it on shrimp, steak, grilled pork chops, corn on the cob or steamed dumplings. Leftover scallion oil can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days; return it to room temperature before serving.

For proper texture and flavor, the scallions should be chopped. Slice them first, then run the knife blade over them a few times to further break them down.

Asparagus with Vietnamese Scallion Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • ½ cup chopped scallions (5 or 6 scallions)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup peanut or other neutral oil
  • 1½ Tbsp. fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 1½ Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 1 1⁄2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed and halved on the diagonal
  • 3 Tbsp. water

Directions

  1. In a medium heatproof bowl, combine the scallions, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Using your fingers, gently rub the salt and pepper into the scallions until the scallions begin to wilt.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering, then pour the hot oil over the scallions; the scallions will sizzle. Stir, then stir in the fish sauce, ginger and sugar. Cool to room temperature.
  3. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil until barely smoking. Add asparagus and cook, stirring only a few times, until charred. Add 3 tablespoons water, then immediately cover. Reduce to low and cook, stirring just once or twice, until the asparagus is crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with scallion oil spooned over.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Recipe by Courtney Hill for Milk Street

Simple, Juicy, Roasted Dry-Rubbed Chicken with Leeks

The honest to goodness truth about roasting a whole chicken? Whether it’s Tuesday night or Sunday supper, whether you’re cooking for two, like us, or a dozen, there’s nothing simpler, more delicious, or more comforting than a proper roast chicken (or two, or three). That, with a velvety pile of creamy mashed potatoes with pan gravy, and silky soft roasted leeks, and you have the ultimate comfort food meal.

Now our chicken weighed in at 5 pounds, slightly larger than the recipe calls for, but we used our “roasting convection” option on the oven and it cooked perfectly in the same amount of time.

There are lot of theories out there about how to season a chicken—we know, we’ve done most of them! But as Bon Appétit claims, the only truly nonnegotiables are (a) being generous with the kosher salt inside and out and (b) letting the chicken sit out for at least an hour, which gives the seasoning time to work its way deep into the meat, meaning every bite is delicious through and through.

The magic begins to happen when you salt the bird inside and out, tie the legs and refrigerate uncovered for 24 hours. The next day, while the oven is preheating, lightly oil the bird, and then pat it all over with the dry rub. Lift the tied legs and insert the lemon quarters and rosemary sprig into the cavity. Now let the oven continue the magic…

Simple, Juicy, Roasted Dry-Rubbed Chicken with Leeks

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1, 31⁄2 to 4 lb. whole chicken
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 3 large leeks, white and light green parts only
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 large sprig rosemary

Directions

  1. Pat a 3½-4-lb. whole chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with kosher salt inside and out. Use 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt per lb.
  2. Tie legs together with kitchen twin. Let sit 1 hour minimum. Salting the chicken ahead of time allows the seasoning to really penetrate the meat. An hour is great, but longer is even better. Chill the salted bird, uncovered, up to 1 day, which is what we did.
  3. Meanwhile, to make the dry rub, grind the fennel seed and peppercorns in a spice grinder until fine.
  4. Slice off the dark green parts of the leeks, slice the light parts in halve lengthwise and wash thoroughly to remove all of the grit. Let dry.
  5. Place a rack in upper third of oven and set a 12″ cast-iron skillet or a 3-qt. enameled cast-iron baking dish on rack.
  6. Preheat oven to 425°. Once oven reaches temperature, pat chicken dry with paper towels again and lightly coat with olive oil. Now’s the time to sprinkle the dry rub all over the bird. Into the cavity, insert 3 or 4 of the lemon quarters and the rosemary sprig.
  7. Drizzle a bit more oil into hot skillet. This prevents the chicken from sticking to the pan.
  8. Place chicken in the center of the skillet. Arrange the leek halves around the bird for a built-in side dish.
  9. Roast for 50-60 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast should register 155°; it’ll climb to 165° as the chicken rests.
  10. Turn the leeks at least once to prevent them from getting too dark. (We didn’t do this and some areas became charred.)
  11. Lift the chicken and push the leeks under the bird so that they’ll absorb flavorful juices. Lightly tent with foil. Let rest in the skillet for at least 20 minutes, and up to 45 minutes.
  12. When done resting, move the chicken to a cutting board with moat, transfer pan liquids to a fat separator to remove excess fat. Wipe out any charred bits from your pan then add back the juices without the fat. At this point we added 1 1⁄2 cups of homemade chicken broth, made a cornstarch slurry, and put back any accumulated juices from the resting chicken and made a pan gravy.
  13. Carve the chicken into legs with thighs, breasts and wings, arrange on a platter and serve with your favorite sides.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Loosely adapted from a recipe for Bon Appétit

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak with Roasted Chicories

A simple quick protein paired with an easy, delicious side dish of roasted chicories, simply fabulous! The marinated skirt steak recipe, compliments of Martha Stewart, can marinate for as little as 15 minutes, or overnight. We soaked ours for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

When we first made this, it was the beginning of December with cold temperatures, so our outdoor grilling option was off the table. But there are two other choices available. Finish the steak on a grill pan, like we did; or cook the steak in a cast iron skillet that had been preheated in a 500 degree oven with olive oil. Either way, it takes 5 minutes or less to cook to medium-rare. The directions below give you the steps for either option.

I was a little apprehensive about the one-pan chicories side dish. But once I tasted the finished product, I was blown away! It hit the right combination of flavors and textures with briny, sweet, bitter, creamy and crunchy. And you don’t even have to peel the squash!

If necessary, cut your piece of steak in half vertically in order to fit your grill pan.

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut crosswise into 4 equal pieces
  • Oil, for grates 

Directions

  1. In a resealable plastic bag or shallow dish, combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pierce meat all over with a fork; add to marinade, and turn to coat. Let marinate at room temperature at least 15 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.
  2. Heat grill to high; oil grates. Remove steaks from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Grill steaks 2 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest 5 minutes.
  3. Alternatively: Cook the steak two minutes per side in a cast iron skillet that had been preheated in a 500 degree oven with olive oil. Result: caramelized edges and medium rare middle.
  4. After resting, cut the meat against the grain at a diagonal in 1/2″ thick slices. Arrange on a serving platter and drizzle with any accumulated juices.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Roasted Chicories with Brown Butter

Roasted Chicories with Brown Butter

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 oz. focaccia or ciabatta bread, cut into cubes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsely
  • 1 large delicata squash (about 1 1/2 lbs.), halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 3/4″ slices
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 heads Belgian endive, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small head radicchio, cut into sixths
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter 
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ cup drained capers
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. In a shallow baking pan toss bread cubes with 1 tablespoon oil. Spread in an even layer. Bake for 8 minutes or until toasted, stirring once. Sprinkle with Parmesan and finely chopped parsley; toss to coat. Transfer to a piece of foil to cool.
  2. In the same baking pan arrange squash in an even layer; drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Add endive, radicchio, and 1 tablespoon oil and toss to coat. Season with additional salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes more or until vegetables are tender and browned.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan heat the butter over medium-low heat until browned. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and capers.
  5. Arrange vegetable mixture on a platter. Drizzle with browned butter mixture and sprinkle with croutons and 2 tablespoons parsley.

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Recipe compliments of Better Homes & Gardens

OMG, The BEST Moroccan Chicken Skewers

WOWSER, these were so friggin’ good! While the original Milk Street recipe broiled the skewers, we decided to grill them for a more enhanced char. The skewers are then finished with the juice of charred lemon halves that have been drizzled with honey, along with a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Cilantro, flat-leaf parsley or mint are good choices, alone or, as we did, in combination.

As a perfect accompaniment we also grilled vegetables tossed in EVOO, salt and pepper. Some skewers were laced with red and green bell pepper along with onion wedges; while others consisted of cherry tomatoes and mushroom caps. We purposely arranged them separately because the onion and pepper pieces took longer to cook. And if you’re not restricting carbs or gluten, tricolored couscous can round out the meal nicely.

Some reviewers commented that they used pomegranate molasses as a finishing drizzle with the herbs because it’s not as sweet as honey but still adds another interesting texture and taste. I think that’s worth a try!

Grilled Moroccan Chicken Skewers

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus 2 lemons, halved
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. honey, plus extra to drizzle
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1½ lbs. halved boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Chopped fresh herbs

Directions

  1. Preheat the grill for direct high heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the lemon zest and juice, oil, honey, ginger, spices, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper; set aside 2 tablespoons.
  3. Toss the chicken with the remaining mixture. Scrunch the chicken onto metal skewers, then place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Add the 4 lemon halves.
  4. Oil the grates and grill chicken and lemon halves until charred, about 12 minutes, flipping the chicken skewers halfway through.
  5. Spoon the reserved lemon-oil mixture over the chicken. Sprinkle with herbs.
  6. Drizzle the lemon halves with honey and serve alongside for squeezing over the chicken.

http://www.lynnandruss.com

Adapted from a recipe for Milk Street

A Fabulous Greek Bean Salad

This delicious simple bean salad, Fasolia Piaz, was found in our Milk Street magazine and had the Mediterranean profile we were looking for. In Greece they typically use large, flat butter beans, but here, easier-to-find cannellinis are incorporated.

To compensate for canned beans’ blandness, they are heated in the microwave, then tossed while still hot with oil, vinegar and aromatics. As the beans cool, they absorb the seasonings, so they’re flavorful throughout.

A bonus, the beans can be heated, dressed and refrigerated up to a day in advance; but bring the beans to room temperature before tossing with the avocado, herbs and lemon. However, even cold the salad is delicious. A great dish to serve at a picnic or potluck as a side for meat lovers, or as a main for plant-based followers.

Milk Street stresses not to skip the step of heating the beans in the microwave, and don’t allow the beans to cool before adding the oil, vinegar and aromatics. Dressing them while hot ensures they are fully infused with flavor. To keep the flavors and colors fresh and bright, don’t add the avocado and herbs until you’re ready to serve.

Greek Bean Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 4 15½-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more, to serve
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley, torn if large
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Directions

  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, toss the beans with 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and microwave on high until hot, 3 to 3½ minutes, stirring once halfway through.
  2. To the hot beans, add the garlic, onion, vinegar, oil, 2 teaspoons salt and ¾ teaspoon pepper; toss to combine. Let stand until cooled to room temperature, about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  3. Stir the beans once again, then stir in the avocado, parsley, dill and lemon zest and juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with additional oil.

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Adapted by Courtney Hill for Milk Street