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Here’s a really fun, delicious meal to kick off grilling season: smoky grilled chicken thighs with cucumber-yogurt sauce.

In essence, this meal reminds me very much of how my mother makes and serves chicken souvlaki: she grills garlic- and basil-marinated chicken and serves it with tzatziki, pita or flatbread, lemon wedges, and often a cucumber salad on the side.

Here, the spices and sauces look farther east: the chicken marinates with cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika, the cucumber-yogurt sauce is inspired by an Indian recipe, and the spiced green sauce, skhug, is a condiment often used in Yemeni and Israeli cooking.

Note: You don’t have to make the skhug — the chicken + cucumber yogurt sauce + bread is a fine meal on its own — but if you haven’t yet made skhug, I encourage you to give it a go. Once you make skhug once, you will want to put it on everything.

Components of Smoky Grilled Chicken Platter
  • Chicken Thighs (or Breasts) marinated with garlic, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika. If you’re up for it, toast whole spices and grind them — they’re just a little bit more fragrant and flavorful.
  • Yogurt Sauce: Inspired by the yogurt sauce in this Bon Appetit recipe, this one includes grated cucumber, fresh lemon and garlic. (Note: this is a sauce that is equally delicious with grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, grilled fish … it’s just a really nice, fresh, tangy sauce.)
  • Flat Bread: I love the Stonefire Naan brand. You know I am always up for making the bread from scratch, but these soft, pliable flat breads are so delicious and a perfect accompaniment to this meal. This may be the one time I encourage you to: Buy the bread!
  • Skhug, (pronounced skoog), is a Middle Eastern (often used in Yemeni and Israeli cooking) blend of herbs, chilies, and toasted spices: here there’s parsley, cilantro, cumin, coriander as well as a heap (1/2 cup) of hot chilies. Because the chilies are seeded, the sauce is not terribly spicy.
  • Optional: Harissa: I made this meal last summer at a cooking class at the Hillsdale General Store and we served it with homemade harissa, which is another really nice condiment for this meal. If you’re feeling ambitious, make both the skhug and the harissa.
Finally: Butcher Box’s Free BBQ Bundle

Butcher Box, if you are unfamiliar, is a service that delivers high-quality, humanely raised, sustainably sourced meat to your door once every month or two months.

If you are interested in giving it a try, now is a great time: new members receive the BBQ bundle for free in their first oder. The free bundle includes: 2 New York Strip Steaks, Baby Back Ribs, and 2 lbs. of Ground Beef — a $59/value. This is a great deal.

You can read more about Butcher Box here and what you can expect when the meat arrives at your door.

Wishing you all a lovely long weekend.

PS: Marinating and Grilling 101

PPS: ALL the Recipe for Memorial Day Weekend

Here’s the play-by-play: Rub chicken thighs with garlic, smoked paprika, toasted and ground cumin and coriander, salt, and pepper.

Drizzle in a few tablespoons of oil and rub to coat. Marinate for at least 1 and up to 12 hours.

Light the coals. I like using chimney starters for this. More grilling tips here: Grilling 101.

When the coals turn white, dump them into the grill, pushing them to one side to allow some of the grill to remain cool-ish.

Grilling in the rain. Yes. You. Can.

These chicken thighs cook for about 3 minutes a side over super hot coals.

Transfer meat to a platter and let rest for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile: Make a cucumber-yogurt sauce with grated cucumber, garlic, Greek yogurt, lemon, and salt.

If you wish, make some skhug (a favorite), too. Recipe is below; more in-depth how-to here.

To serve, smear the cucumber-yogurt sauce on a plate, top with grilled chicken, drizzle with skhug, and serve with lemon wedges.

Also: bread! I love this Stonefire naan.

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Smoky Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
  • Author: alexandra
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 2
Description

Notes:

  • As always, you can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts in place of the thighs. If you do, I suggest you pound them lightly, so each breast is an even thickness. This could be 3/4-1-inch thick (or thicker or thinner). You will likely need to grill for less time, so keep an eye on them.
  • Scale this recipe up as needed. A good rule of thumb: Use 1 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of meat. Diamond Crystal kosher salt (red box) is what I use.
  • I like toasting whole cumin and coriander seeds and grinding them in my mortar and pestle, but you can substitute ground spices in place of the whole. If you do, use less — 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of each.
  • Another nice condiment to serve here: Homemade Harissa.
Ingredients For the chicken:
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, see notes above
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, see notes above
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 to 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (3 to 4)
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • a few tablespoons grapeseed oil
For the Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce:
  • 1 large or 3 small cucumbers (about 8 oz)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, I like the Fage 5%
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tablespoons fresh-squeeze lemon juice (from about 1/2 a lemon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For serving:
  • naan or pita bread, I like the Stonefire naan brand
  • lemon wedges
  • skhug (recipe follow)
Instructions
  1. Place a small, dry skillet over medium heat and toast the coriander and cumin seeds until they begin to darken and smell fragrant. Transfer them to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder. Add the smoked paprika and stir to combine.
  2. Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl or in a large ziplock bag. Season all over with salt (about 1 teaspoon per pound) and pepper to taste. Rub with the minced garlic. Add the spice blend and oil and mix with your hands to evenly coat the chicken in the oil and spices. Place chicken in fridge. Marinate for at least one hour and up to 12. If possible, bring chicken to room temperature before grilling (about an hour or so beforehand.)
  3. Meanwhile, make the cucumber-yogurt sauce: Grate the cucumber coarsely on a box grater. In a medium bowl, stir the cucumber into the yogurt, along with the garlic, and lemon. Season with the salt, starting with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, adding an additional 1/4 teaspoon if necessary.
  4. When ready to grill: preheat a gas grill to high or prepare coals for high heat. For charcoal grilling, fill two chimney starters  with coals and let them burn for about 30 minutes. Then, dump the coals into the grill (piling them on one side to allow one half or one third of the grill to be a cooler zone), replace the grate, and let it heat for at least 5 minutes. Scrape the grates.
  5. When grill is hot, transfer the chicken uncovered to the grates. Grill, without touching, for about 3 minutes. Flip. And grill for another 2 to 3 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165ºF (or a little bit less to account for carryover cooking). Transfer meat to a platter or cutting board to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  6. While the chicken rests, warm the pita or naan — you can do this right on the grill or in the toaster. Gather all of the remaining condiments: cucumber-yogurt sauce, skhug (if making), and lemon wedges. Cut chicken into smallish (1- to 2-inch) pieces.
  7. To serve: I liked to smear the cucumber-yogurt sauce on a platter, pile the chicken on top, and drizzle some of the skhug over as well. But you could also serve each component separately, letting the eaters assemble as they wish. I like serving the bread on the side and using it as a vehicle to scoop or to make mini sandwiches, but you could also make larger pita-pocket sandwiches.
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: chicken, thighs, smoky, cumin, coriander, smoked, paprika, garlic, lemon yogurt, skhug, zhoug

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @alexandracooks on Instagram and hashtag it #alexandracooks

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At the start of every grilling season the same questions always seem to arise: Is marinating really necessary? And if so, for how long? Is salt in the marinade a no-no or a must? What about acid? What kind of charcoal should I buy? Lump or briquettes? Do I grill covered or uncovered? 

Last summer, in preparation for a charcoal grilling class I was teaching at the Hillsdale General Store, I brushed up on my grilling and marinating know-how and compiled everything I learned in a document, which is now included below. 

This post is organized as follows: Marinating 101 | Gear for Charcoal GrillingCharcoal Grilling 101 | 9 Favorite Recipes for the Grill.

Please add any grilling wisdom in the comments.

Marinating 101

Marinade info mostly sourced from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab.

What Ingredients Should Be In A Marinade?
  • Oil
  • Acid
  • Salt or Salty Liquid
  • Aromatics, optional
Why Oil?
  • It emulsifies a marinade, making it tackier, which allows it to more effectively stick to the meat.
  •  Ingredients such as onions, garlic, and many spices are oil soluble, meaning their flavors release/disperse best when mixed with oil.
  • Oil helps the meat cook evenly, providing a buffer between the heat of the grill and the surface of the meat.
Why Acid?
  • Acid is a tenderizer.
  • Note, however, excessive acid can “cook” meat and cause it to firm up/turn chalky. When using acid in a marinade, use no more than equal parts acid and oil and limit exposure time to under 10 hours to prevent meat from turning chalky.
Why Salt or Salty Liquid?
  • The muscle protein myosin will dissolve in a salty liquid, leaving the meat with a looser texture and a better ability to retain moisture. Soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, moreover, contain protease, an enzyme that breaks down proteins.
Why Aromatics?
  • Aromatics such as garlic, ginger, shallots, scallions, dried spices, herbs, and chilies are mostly for seasoning the surfaces of meat, but they still will provide significant flavor.
How & For How Long to Marinate?
  • A ziplock bag with the air squeezed out, which maximizes contact between meat and marinade, is a great tool for marinating, but any vessel you have that will fit the meat snuggly will work. I like using glass bowls or baking dishes, too.
  • Marinades do not penetrate very far—no more than a millimeter or two—into meat even over the course of many hours. So, a marinade’s effect is largely limited to the surface of the meat.
  • Time-wise, shoot to marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours. More than 12 hours will cause the meat to get a bit too mushy and chalky around the edges, having a slightly cooked appearance.
Gear For Charcoal Grilling
Charcoal Grill
  • I own this charcoal Weber, which is a very basic model — zero bells and whistles — but it’s a nice size, and it does the job for the kind of grilling I like to do.  
 Chimney Starters
  • Chimney starters remove the hassle from lighting coals. I suggest investing in a pair of chimney starters. I use 1 full sheet of newspaper per starter. The chimneys look large, but after 30 minutes of heating, the coals burning inside of them shrink, and even for a small amount of food, one chimney-full of coals is rarely enough. 
  • When the coals have turned white, dump them into the grill, replace the grate, and let the grate heat for at least five minutes before grilling — the hotter the grates, the lower the chances the food will stick.
Charcoal
  • Look for Hardwood Lump Charcoal. I like the Cowboy brand (pictured above) — I buy it at Lowe’s. When you buy “hardwood lump charcoal” you know you’re buying real wood: chunks of charred hardwood. Charcoal briquettes also are made of wood, but also a number of other things. I grew up using Kingston; it’s fine; if I can’t make it to Lowe’s, I don’t hesitate to use it. 

Tongs, Lighter, Brush, Gloves
  • Tongs: A pair of long tongs is handy. 
  • Lighter, optional: These Bic lighters are nice to have on hand for lighting chimney starters.
  • Brush: Something like this one is nice to have on hand for cleaning the grill grates.
  • Gloves: Protect your arms! I just ordered a pair of these. I will keep you posted. There is nothing worse than sweating under a hot sun and above screaming hot coals. 
Instant Read Thermometer
  • Thermapen, optional. The Thermapen has been a welcomed addition to my toolbox, the pal standing by my side all summer long (winter, too!), ensuring me over and over again: The meat is done. Take it off the grill. 
Charcoal Grilling 101

Note: I am no Meathead. I like grilling skewers of chicken thighscedar planks topped with salmonwhole fish, and thin cuts of beef like skirt or hanger. In other words, I don’t like standing at the grill for more than 8 minutes tops. 

Meat GrillingThe Meat

If you are able to, look for humanely raised or sustainably raised or grass-fed meats. If you cannot find it locally, Butcher Box may be a nice option for you. If you are interested in trying it out, now is a great time: new members receive the BBQ bundle for free in their first oder. The free bundle includes: 2 New York Strip Steaks, Baby Back Ribs, and 2 lbs. of Ground Beef — a $59/value. Read more about Butcher Box here and what you can expect when the meat arrives at your door. Read more about Grass-Fed meat here.  

The Process

 This is the simple method I employ when grilling meat: chicken, pork, beef, etc. 

  1. Rub meat with aromatics and or seasonings (minced garlic, ginger, shallots, scallions, dried spices, herbs, and chiles).
  2. Dress with a mix of acid (citrus or vinegar) or salty liquid (Worcestershire or soy) or salt and olive oil.
  3. Marinate for at least an hour and no more than 12 hours (a little longer is fine). 
  4. Pat dry, then season liberally with salt and pepper before grilling over burning hot coals. 
Fish Grilling
Vegetable Grilling
  • I am partial to dry-grilling, which calls for grilling vegetables without oil or any seasoning; then dressing them with oil and other seasonings post grilling. I find this technique prevents the vegetables from becoming oil-laden and soggy as well as from taking on an acrid, burnt-oil flavor.  

9 Simple Recipes For The Grill
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As noted in a recent post, a trend I’ve observed among the spring 2019 cookbooks is plant-based cooking. I’ve seen lots of vegetarian riffs on classic meaty dishes — buffalo cauliflower, moo shu vegetable wraps — and vegetables and legumes in general comprising the bulk of main course meals: zucchini noodle pad see ew, chickpea chopped salad, black bean and quinoa burgers.

Several of them bring a strong smoothie game, too, and two in particular — Healthier Together and Well + Good — have totally transformed my blending routine.

A few weeks ago, I shared the coffee smoothie recipe from Well + Good, which I’m still making and loving. 

But I’ve been loving another one, too. In Healthier Together, Liz Moody offers a simple framework for making green smoothies and says the secret to making a smoothie truly filling, is to pack it with with healthy fats and protein. Feeling inspired, I started adding spinach, hemp seeds (a fat and a protein), and chia seeds (also a fat and a protein) to my longtime favorite smoothie recipe: Violet’s Big Blueberry Smoothie.

If you’ve ever added spinach (and perhaps other greens) to your smoothie, you know that the spinach essentially disappears, imparting a very subtle vegetal flavor. I found my new vegetable-packed smoothie just as satisfying as before with the added bonus of keeping me fuller longer.

After several weeks of making spinach + blueberry smoothies, I swapped out the blueberries all together for a heap (3 ounces!) of spinach instead. And to compensate for the missing sweetness lent by the berries, I added a date. Without the berries in the mix, this combination whirls into a vibrant green hue. It’s delicious, nutritious, and satisfying. Here’s the basic formula:

Green Smoothie Formula
  • 1 banana, sliced and frozen
  •  a heap of spinach
  • almond milk or milk of choice
  • almond butter or nut butter of choice
  • 1 date
  • pinch of sea salt
  • optional add-ins: chia and/or hemp seeds
  • ice

Friends, are you into green smoothies? If so, what do you add to yours?

Print
Green Smoothie with Spinach, Almond Butter, & Dates
  • Author: alexandra
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 smoothie
Description

A few tips/notes:

  • I’ve gotten in the habit of slicing bananas and freezing them in an airtight container. I lay a sheet of parchment paper over the slices of one whole banana, so I know how much to use for each smoothie.
  • Nut butter: use what you like. I always buy/use salted.
  • Depending on the size of the Medjool dates, you may only need one. If you like things a little sweeter, you may need two. You may not need them at all. My blender is old and does not do a great job whirring ingredients into a smooth purée, dates in particular. If you have the time, you can soak the dates in the almond milk, which softens them and makes them purée more smoothly. I do this first thing in the morning: pour a cup of almond milk into a 1-cup liquid measure; break up my date and drop it in.
  • I bought hemp seeds on a whim after reading about them in books and blogs, and I now add a tablespoon to each smoothie. Hemp is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, contains iron, magnesium, and vitamin E, and is a complete protein.
  • Chia seeds. I always have chia seeds on hand because of this muesli, but I now add a tablespoon of chia seeds to each smoothie as well. Chia seeds have a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, minerals, and are also a complete protein.
Ingredients
  • 1 banana, sliced and frozen
  • handful of ice
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter or other nut butter
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 to 2 Medjool dates, pitted and torn into pieces, see notes above
  • 2 to 3 ounces spinach
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds, optional
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds, optional
Instructions

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If blender gets stuck, stop it, jostle the ingredients with a knife, and purée again. If smoothie is too thick, add water or more almond milk till the purée is the consistency you like.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Blender
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: green, smoothie, banana, almond butter, almond milk, vegan, spinach

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @alexandracooks on Instagram and hashtag it #alexandracooks

The post Green Smoothie with Spinach, Almond Butter, & Dates appeared first on Alexandra's Kitchen.

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An attempt to make an authentic fattoush salad could easily send someone down the YouTube rabbit hole. I found myself nearly there a few weeks ago, when I remembered the exceptional fattoush salad my Lebanese friend Liliane had made a few summers ago for lunch at her house.

It was simple, too: good tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, good crispy pita bread, a simple dressing, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, and a sprinkling of za’atar. I remember thinking: I could live on this salad.

The version featured here is not Liliane’s, but it includes many of the same elements. I bought the pomegranate molasses and the pita from Nora’s Grocery in Albany, a spot Liliane has been encouraging me to visit for years. The shop in general is filled with goodies, but it’s worth the visit alone for the pita, which is flown in from Montreal every Thursday morning. (Incidentally, Nora, the owner, is as charming as ever, and I ended up walking away with a ball of her homemade cheese, a tub of her favorite labne, and a jar of rose jam, which Nora likes to eat with the labne spread across toast. More on this soon.)

Because tomatoes are not yet in season, I’ve altered the classic fattoush makeup, using slivered snap peas, radishes, and cucumbers instead, and I encourage you to do the same: use what vegetables you have on hand or that are currently in season.

If you stick to the basic fattoush formula: chopped fresh vegetables + lots of herbs + crispy pita + fattoush dressing, you’ll end up with something delicious no matter what. Let’s break down the fattoush elements:

Fattoush Salad Dressing

I’ve adapted my favorite shallot vinaigrette recipe to include garlic as well as sumac and pomegranate molasses, two ingredients typically found in fattoush salads. Sumac is not in fact a spice, but rather the ground berry of a shrub. It lends a unique acidic and lemony flavor. Pomegranate molasses is reduced pomegranate juice. It is thick in texture, like a syrup, and its sweet-sharp flavor is not unlike a reduced balsamic vinegar. Most bottles you find will have the addition of sugar, too. I am really loving the Cortas brand Nora recommended.

Because I love white balsamic vinegar, I’m using it here, but some or all of it could be replaced by fresh squeezed lemon juice, which may be more traditional. Use what you like. The exact proportions are included in the recipe box below, but here are the elements:

Fattoush Vegetables

Tomatoes and cucumbers are classic, but as noted above, use what is in season. Any of the below vegetables in any combination would be nice throughout the spring and summer.

  • slivered snap or snow peas; slice them on the bias for a pretty presentation
  • cucumbers
  • radishes
  • Romaine or other sturdy lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • thinly shaved fennel
  • bell peppers
  • thinly sliced red onion
  • raw corn
  • What else? Anything you would put in a chopped salad would work here.
Fattoush Herbs

Mint, for me, is essential, but any of the below herbs in any combination would be nice.

  • mint
  • chives
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • dill
  • scallions (not really an herb, but herb-like in what it offers)
Fattoush Pita
  • If you cannot find the above mentioned ARZ pita, use whatever you can find. The ARZ pita is very thin, and for this reason I don’t split it before toasting. If you are using thicker pita, split the rounds crosswise before toasting.
  • The pita can be toasted without any oil or seasonings, but the oil and spices and salt make it so, so tasty. Here I’ve used cumin and crushed red pepper flakes, but any number of spices could work. Next time, I’m trying za’atar, which Lilian uses in her fattoush salad.

As noted above, this whole combination is not authentic, but authenticity is not the goal here. The sweet-sharp flavor of the pomegranate molasses along with the tart, lemony sumac in combination with all of the herbs and vegetables give this salad a brightness and liveliness that’s just irresistible.

After making the salad yesterday on Instagram Stories and posting the photo in my feed, I was so happy to see Liliane’s comment, which read: “The salad looks delicious and refreshing, which is what fattoush is all about.” Amen, Liliane.

This is the pita that is flown in from Montreal every Thursday morning to Nora’s.

Brush it with olive oil, cumin, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes, if you wish.

Crispy pita = so good. This fattoush salad experiment has sent me on a little homemade-pita chip bender. My kids like them brushed with olive oil and salt. If you cut the pita into wedges before you toast them, you could make chips that are really nice to serve with hummus.

The two ingredients that give fattoush salad that unique sharpness and tartness: sumac and pomegranate molasses.

Print
Spring Fattoush Salad
  • Author: alexandra
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 33 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
Description

Notes:

  • Use the recipe below as a guide. Come summer, I 100% will add tomatoes, but right now, this mix of snap peas, radishes, cucumbers, lettuce, and herbs, is doing the job. Use whatever vegetables and herbs you like and have on hand.
  • The salad dressing is simply an adaptation of my favorite shallot vinaigrette with the addition of sumac and pomegranate molasses. It can be scaled up as needed.
  • Not all pomegranate molasses are created equal. I bought this Cortas pomegranate molasses from Nora’s Market in Albany — Nora recommended this bottle, and I trust Nora. Because the sweetness/tartness/flavor of pomegranate molasses can vary from bottle to bottle, start with a tablespoon and add more to taste.
  • Sumac can be hard to find. I see it more and more in shops and always in Middle Eastern markets, but if you have a hard time finding it, order a jar.
  • This pita, (purchased from Nora’s Market, flown in from Montreal every Thursday), is very thin — separating it into two halves, in fact, is torture. Because of this, I don’t separate it — I simply leave it whole, brush it with olive oil and seasonings, and bake it. It works beautifully. If you are using thicker pita that is easy to separate, do so.
Ingredients for the fattoush dressing:
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
for the pita:
  • 2 rounds pita, see notes above
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt to taste
for the salad:
  • 2 heads Romaine, finely chopped
  • 4 small cucumbers, diced
  • 1/2 lb. snap or snow peas, strings removed, sliced thinly on the bias
  • 4 radishes, optional, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped chives
  • 1 cup mint, finely chopped
Instructions
  1. Make the dressing. Place the shallots, garlic, salt, sumac and vinegar in a small bowl. Let stand at least 15 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses and the olive oil. Whisk to combine. Taste. Add another tablespoon of pomegranate molasses if you wish — I always use 2 tablespoons.
  2. Make the pita. Heat the oven to 400ºF. If you are using thin pita (see notes above), simply lay the two rounds of pita on a sheet pan. If you are using thick pita, separate each into two halves and place each half smooth side up on a sheet pan. In a small bowl, stir together 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the cumin, and the crushed red pepper flakes — if you are brushing the oil over only two halves, 2 tablespoons will feel like a lot of oil (but it’s delicious and I say go for it); if you are brushing the oil over four halves, it may not feel like enough. Adjust accordingly — you want the surface of the pita to be coated in the cumin oil. Season generously with salt all over. Transfer pan to oven and bake for 6 to 8 minutes — keep an eye on it! These quickly turn from perfectly toasty to overdone. Remove pan from oven and transfer pitas to a rack to cool.
  3. Make the salad: In a large bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients. Pour most of the dressing over top. Toss. Taste. Add more dressing — you’ll likely need all of it. Break the pita into shards over the salad. Toss again. Serve.
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Toss
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern

Keywords: fattoush, salad, dressing, sumac, pomegranate molasses, Lebanese, spring

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @alexandracooks on Instagram and hashtag it #alexandracooks

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At the first sighting of rhubarb last week at the market, I loaded up my cart with two visions in mind: 1. Rhubarb Schnapps, a spring tradition. 2. Bon Appetit’s Rhubarb Custard Cake, one of the most delicious things I made last summer.

I discovered the recipe last July, late-ish as far as rhubarb season goes, and managed to make it a few times before summer ended and my attention turned to Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and all the winter squashes. But I dreamed about this cake all winter, contemplating many a variation with apple or pear or quince, none of which materialized.

When I made this cake last week for the first time in months, I was reminded why I love it so much: its custardy texture, its sugary crust, its perfect sweet-tart flavor profile. Plus: rhubarb. Is there anything better?

This cake comes together relatively quickly, too, requiring three basic steps: 1. Mixing the dry ingredients. 2. Beating eggs with sugar. 3. Whisking wet ingredients. After you combine these three elements, you arrange rhubarb slices on top and pop it to the oven. Forty-five minutes later it’s done, emerging with sugary rhubarb slices bobbing in a custardy but cake-y base.

I find this cake tastes best the day it is made, though it makes a fine breakfast on day two. With that in mind, I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this as part of a festive spring brunch.

A Few Tips

If you’ve seen the BA photo of this cake, you may feel inspired to arrange your rhubarb slices artfully atop the cake batter, perhaps in a chevron or herringbone motif. I encourage you mostly not to bother — most of the slices will sink below the surface of the batter, rendering your efforts fruitless. But if you are eager to try, here are a few things I have found helpful for keeping those rhubarb slices afloat:

  • Chill the batter longer than the recommended 10 minutes.
  • Let the butter cool to room temperature — not so that it begins to firm up, but so that it is in fact cool to the touch.
  • Cut wide slices of rhubarb lengthwise in half or into thirds before cutting them crosswise to ensure the pieces are as light as possible.
  • Use all 13 oz. of rhubarb, laying the pieces of rhubarb that do not fit in a single layer on top of the first layer.

That’s it! I hope you make and love this one.

PS: Rhubarb-Frangipane Galette | Rhubarb Schnapps | Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Rhubarb Compote

Here’s the play-by-play: Steel yourself for a three-bowl job — don’t worry; it comes together quickly.

The batter needs to rest for at least 10 minutes in the fridge before receiving its rhubarb topping.

Print
Rhubarb Custard Cake
  • Author: alexandra
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 8
Description

Source: Bon Appetit

Notes: 

  • It is not recommended to mix the batter for this cake in a mixer, and there is no need — with about a minute of vigorous beating with a whisk, the eggs and sugar become lemony in color and thick and ribbony in texture.
  • If you are avoiding alcohol, substitute a tablespoon of vanilla for the rum.
  • Your rhubarb slices, no matter how lightly you place them atop the batter, will mostly sink. A few things I have found that help keep them afloat: 1. Chill the batter for longer than the recommended 10 minutes. 2. Let the butter cool to room temperature. 3. Use all 13 oz. of rhubarb, laying the pieces of rhubarb that do not fit in a single layer on top of the first layer.
  • Original recipe calls for buttering and flouring the pan, but I like to use sugar — it creates an irresistible crust.
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, cooled, plus more room-temperature for pan
  • 1 cup (128 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1½ cups (328 g) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum or Brandy, see notes
  • zest from one lemon
  • 13 oz. rhubarb stalks, cut in half or thirds lengthwise if thick, then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and sugar (see notes above) a 9-inch springform pan — (to sugar: sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar into the buttered pan, shake it all around to distribute the sugar evenly, tap out excess.)
  2. Whisk the baking powder, salt, and 1 cup all-purpose flour in a medium bowl. Whisk the eggs, egg yolk, and 1½ cups sugar in a large bowl until very pale and thick, about 1 minute. Whisk melted butter, sour cream, rum, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Whisk butter mixture into egg mixture just to combine. Add dry ingredients and fold in until batter is smooth; scrape into prepared pan. Chill 10 minutes (or longer) to let batter set.
  3. Arrange rhubarb over batter however you like, trimming as needed. Don’t press fruit into batter—just place over top and let it rest on the surface. Don’t fuss too much about how you arrange the rhubarb on top because most of it will sink into the batter. Sprinkle with more sugar — I use a tablespoon — and bake until cake is golden on top and browned around the sides, about 45 minutes. If you have an instant read thermometer, it should register at least 210ºF. This make take more or less time depending on your oven temperature and material of your pan.
  4. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan 10 minutes. Slide a knife around sides of cake to loosen and unmold. Slide directly onto rack and let cool completely.
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: rhubarb, cake, custard, sour cream, lemon

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Tag @alexandracooks on Instagram and hashtag it #alexandracooks

The post Rhubarb Custard Cake appeared first on Alexandra's Kitchen.

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I have been making some variation of this breakfast casserole since this past Christmas morning, when I made Andrew Feinberg’s broccoli frittata, which was very well received (by the four adults sitting at the table).

What differentiates Andrew’s frittata from others is the cooking method, and in particular, the unusually low oven temperature — 250ºF — which prevents the custard from becoming dry and granular.

Like many frittata recipes, Andrew’s starts on the stovetop and finishes in the oven. In the recipe included below, the eggs cook entirely in the oven, moving it out of the frittata territory, making it more of an egg bake or a casserole (though there’s no cream or milk).

This recipe should be used as a guide and tailored to your tastes and preferences. I like a little bit of greens, a little bit of cheese, a little bit of onion, and a little bit of sausage, which makes the casserole feel a bit more substantial and precludes the need for cooking other breakfast meat on the side, which is especially nice when entertaining.

Here’s a rough framework:

The Makings of A Very Nice Breakfast Casserole
  • Eggs: Estimate about 2 per person.
  • Salt: A good rule of thumb: 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt for every 4 eggs.
  • Something green. I like spinach, because it’s so low maintenance. No need to cook it — simply toss it with the hot sausage and onions, the heat of which will gently wilt it. Other options: roasted asparagus or broccoli, finely chopped Swiss chard or kale, etc.
  • Cheese: I like Gruyère or Fontina. For 12 eggs, 4 ounces of grated cheese is about right.
  • Onions: If you have the time to caramelize or near-caramelize an onion, do it. Otherwise, chopped scallions or chives will add that nice allium flavor, while also providing more green color.
  • Sausage: I love hot Italian sausage here. The spices in the sausage flavor the custard, and the subtle spiciness is nice. Also: spinach + sausage is always a good match.

Breakfast casseroles or egg bakes are great for — wait for it — breakfast or brunch, especially when entertaining. But they also make great, low-key dinners, and the format can be used to clean out the odds and ends in your vegetable bins. Cold or re-heated, the leftover casserole makes a fine lunch on subsequent days, too.

This is how I like to make this breakfast casserole: Start by browning the sausage.

Pour it over a heap of spinach in a colander — this serves to both gently wilt the spinach and drain off excess fat and moisture.

Caramelize or nearly caramelize an onion, if you wish.

Transfer the onion to the colander as well.

Toss to combine and further wilt the spinach.

Transfer to a 9×13-inch pan and cover with grated cheese. (Love this 9×13-inch USA Pan.)

Beat 12 eggs.

Pour the eggs over top.

Bake until custard is just set.

Print
Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Casserole with Spinach
  • Author: alexandra
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Description

Use the proportions below as a guide. You can omit the sausage to make it vegetarian. If you want to scale it up or down, a good rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt for every 4 eggs.

Ingredients
  • 2– to  4-oz baby spinach (I typically use 3 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 0.5 – 0.75 lb. hot Italian sausage
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced or diced
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 4 oz. grated cheese, I like Gruyère or Fontina
  • 12 eggs
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 250ºF. Place spinach in a large colander and set it in the sink. Grease a 9×13-inch pan lightly with butter or with nonstick spray.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil till it shimmers. Cook the sausage till it browns and is nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Break it up with a spoon or a spatula as it cooks. Spoon the sausage over the spinach in the colander in the sink. Return the skillet to the stove top, add a little bit more oil to the pan if necessary, and set it over medium heat. Add the onions. Season with salt. Cook the onions till they begin to caramelize, 7 to 10 minutes. Spoon the onions over the sausage and toss with a spatula or large spoon to gently wilt the spinach. Transfer the spinach-sausage mixture to the prepared pan. Spread the cheese over top.
  3. Break the eggs into a large bowl, season with the 1.5 teaspoons salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Beat with a whisk until the eggs are well blended. Pour the eggs into the pan. Season with more pepper to taste. Transfer pan to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Start checking at 30 minutes, then every 5 minutes thereafter till it’s done — depending on your oven and the material of the pan you are using, it may take more or less time to cook.
  4. Remove pan from the oven, and let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: egg, casserole, sausage, cheese, spinach

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @alexandracooks on Instagram and hashtag it #alexandracooks

The post Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Casserole with Spinach appeared first on Alexandra's Kitchen.

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Mother’s Day is fast approaching. Here are 15 gift ideas for any mother in your life.

From gin and oven mitts to dates and cookbooks to reusable produce bags and beautiful nonstick pans, there is something, I hope, for everyone. Most of these are new-ish discoveries. A collection of my perennial favorites can be found here.

Do you have anything fun to add? Let me know in the comments.

**This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for the support**

1. Food52 x Greenpan Nonstick Skillet. I bought the 8″ & 11″ set a few months ago, and I have been loving them. I love that they are both nonstick and oven safe, which makes endeavors such as frittatas effortless. I love the small one for scrambling eggs or making 2-egg omelets. You can see it in action here and here. I use the larger one for eggs, too, but also for quick sautés or when I know I’m going to need to transfer something out of the pan, like crispy chickpeas — in my larger, heavier pans, getting things out is such a task. Bonus: They’re very pretty.

2. My neighbor gave me a bottle of this Bar Hill Gin a few weeks ago, and it disappeared more quickly than I’d like to admit. It’s so floral and aromatic — it barely needs anything but ice and a squeeze of lemon.

3. The legendary Maida Heatter (who is 101-years young!!)  has a new book: Happiness is Baking. Dorie Greenspan, who credits Maida with teaching her how to bake, wrote the foreword, which is a great read as is Maida’s introduction, in which she writes: “Baking is a great escape. It’s happiness. It’s creative. It’s good for your health. It reduces stress.” Preach, Maida. Preach. I haven’t had a chance to bake anything from this yet, but it includes classics like her Budapest coffeecake and East 62nd Street lemon cake both of which I am eager to try.

Do you have a favorite Maida Heatter recipe? Let me know.

4. How pretty are these MINNA oven mitts? They’re 100% cotton and made by hand at a family run co-op in Chiapas, Mexico. MINNA partners with master weavers and artisans in Mexico, Guatemala, and Uruguay, and the company is know for its ethically made, socially-responsible textiles.

5. My friend Louise McManus, owner of the Vischer Ferry General Store, gave me a bucket of Maldon Sea Salt for Christmas, and I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the boxes.

6. Margaret Roach’s A Way to Garden because every gardener needs a trusty, comprehensive resource by her side. PS: There’s still time to win a copy of Margaret’s book (and sneak a peek at her magical garden).

7. A bottle of Le Creuset’s cast iron cookware cleaner, because everyone’s pans should sparkle like new.

Photo Credit: Emilie Raffa

8. A sourdough starter. I’ve purchased and activated this one from Breadtopia and this one from King Arthur Flour, but my friend Emilie Raffa, sourdough extraordinaire, sells her dried sourdough starter!

9. Chile Oil. I love this cayenne chile pepper fused oil from Evergreen Olive Oil Company. It is delicious in so things (eggs!), but I especially love it with this recipe for sautéed chicories with chile oil.

10. Anything from Rancho Meladuco Date Farm:

11. A Plant-Based Cookbook. As I mentioned in the coffee smoothie post, a trend I’ve observed in the spring cookbooks is plant-based cooking. None of the above-pictured books is exclusively vegetarian, but each devotes many pages to plant-based recipes. You can read more about Well + Good here, and I hope very soon to share recipes from The Nimble Cook, Ruffage, and Mostly Plants.

A few other cookbooks I’ve posted about this spring: Aloha Kitchen | Family | Where Cooking Begins | Healthier Together | The Food in Jars Kitchen | Indian-ish 

12. Husbands that Cook by Ryan Alvarez and Adam Merrin, the husbands behind the eponymous blog, is a 100% vegetarian cookbook. Many of the recipes are easily made vegan, too. I made the strawberry-ginger syrup which can be used to in both Prosecco-spiked cocktails and lemony mocktails, both of which I loved.

13. A $19.95/year Digital Subscription to MilkStreet. I’ve been a MilkStreet subscriber for a few months now and can’t say enough good things about it. It’s the best $20 I’ve spent all year. See: Lightning Fast Sichuan Noodles with Cabbage.

14. A new microplane grater. I recently replaced my old microplane with this new guy. Wow. What an experience — zesting a lemon, grating garlic or ginger, shaving parmesan. It was long over due.

15. Reusable produce bags. I read about these in Bon Appetit and ordered a set immediately. I’ve been loving them. I take them with me to the grocery store, and I store the veg in them when I get them home.

The post A Few Ideas for Mother’s Day appeared first on Alexandra's Kitchen.

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A trend I’ve observed among the spring 2019 cookbooks is wellness and plant-based eating. Of the many, Well + Good is perhaps the most overtly focused in these areas, with recipes to improve skin, sleep, mood, digestion, energy, focus, and sex (…watch out! Alexandra’s Kitchen is getting ris-que!!).

The book, written by journalists Alexia Brue and Melisse Gelula, who launched the website Well + Good a decade ago, includes recipes from experts and authorities in the health and wellness sphere, including Mark Hyman, Venus Williams, Misty Copeland, and Bobbi Brown.

Also: Marcus Antebi, founder of the juice chain Juice Press, who, while training as a competitive boxer, altered his diet to consist primarily of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and salads. His “competitive coffee smoothie” recipe caught my attention for a number of reasons:

  1. It called for 3/4 cup of brewed coffee, which would solve my dumping-the-rest-of-the-coffee-pot-down-the-drain problem.
  2. It called for cauliflower, which I immediately dismissed as weird, but which apparently is good for mental clarity, and which I could get down with as long as the smoothie didn’t taste too cauliflower-y.
  3. With banana, almond milk, almond butter, and dates, it sounded delicious.

I gave it a whirl, cauliflower and all, and couldn’t have been happier with the result: It tastes like a coffee milkshake. You would never know a blast of vegetables is in the mix — cauliflower disappears the way spinach does in smoothies — and how nice to get a little cruciferous boost in your mid-morning (or afternoon) pick-me-up?

I have made one of these coffee smoothies every day since discovering it, and I find myself looking forward to it until I do — it’s such a treat! What’s more, I have reduced my coffee waste to zero. Score!

Let me know if you give it a go.

The Well + Good cookbook:

Print
Competitive Coffee Smoothie with Dates & Banana
  • Author: alexandra
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 serving
Description

Adapted from the Well + Good cookbook.

Tailor this recipe to your liking. For instance: the original recipe calls for half a banana, but I use a whole; the original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons almond butter, but I use 1; the original recipe calls for melted almond butter on top, but I omit.

And before you poo-poo the cauliflower, know that you don’t taste it. It disappears the way spinach does in smoothies. For ease of preparation, I purée half a head of cauliflower in the food processor, and I store it in a quart container in the fridge.

Also: I’ve been pouring leftover coffee into a Mason jar and stashing that in the fridge, so I always have cold coffee on hand to make this.

Also: I slice up a banana and stick it in the freezer first thing every morning so it’s nice and cold when I’m ready to make my smoothie.

Ingredients
  • 1 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 3/4 cup leftover coffee
  • 1/4 cup almond milk or other nondairy milk
  • a handful of ice cubes
  • 2 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup cauliflower, see notes above
  • pinch sea salt, such as Maldon
  • cacao nibs for sprinkling, optional
Instructions

Place all ingredients in a blender, and purée until smooth. Pour into a glass, and top with cacao nibs if you wish.

  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Blender
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: smoothie, coffee, vegan, dairy free, gluten free,

Did you make this recipe?

Tag @alexandracooks on Instagram and hashtag it #alexandracooks

The post Coffee Smoothie with Dates, Banana, and Cacao appeared first on Alexandra's Kitchen.

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Today, Margaret Roach’s all-new 21st anniversary edition of her first award-winning book, A Way to Garden, makes its way into the world.

It’s 300+ pages, nearly twice as thick as the original, packed with color photos, and totally revamped to reflect forty years of wisdom and insight, most importantly the changes in how Margaret gardens today. For gardeners of all kinds and at all skill levels, it’s a dream, a treasure trove of knowledge. Some highlights for me include:

  • 18 Seed-Starting Tips
  • 13 Things About Growing Tomatoes
  • Organic Lawn Care
  • A Must-Have Rose
  • Not Your Average Morning Glories
  • Growing Potatoes
  • Making Compost

I could list so much more, not to mention the touching stories (like one about sisterhood, which made me cry).

Though my garden is wee, Margaret and her website are a constant source of inspiration and a resource I turn to again and again. She taught me how to freeze parsley (and other herbs) and the trick to growing cilantro — hint, as Margaret says: “sow, sow, sow again.” She also introduced me to Craig LeHoullier, his book, and Dester tomatoes, which my husband started from seed a few weeks ago in our basement.  I cannot wait for summer.

I recently visited Margaret and her garden, and I’ve included a few snaps below. But before you get lost in the wonderland that is Margaret’s backyard…

A Few Things:

Some snaps from Margaret’s garden: A sea of hellebores.

Backyard pond, where Margaret’s friends are known to take baths, and …

… where Margaret finds salamander egg beds while skimming leaves.

Margaret’s 125-year old apple tree.

Voodoo lilie bulbs.

Margaret and her book! Get yours: A Way to Garden

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Margaret Roach’s Magical Garden + A Giveaway: A Way To Garden appeared first on Alexandra's Kitchen.

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