Mid-East Feast

I honestly can't remember when I started falling for mid-east cuisine, but I've fallen hard. Its still a treat for me too, since Steve isn't a huge fan of Middle Eastern and Greek foods. Is this a guy thing? I've heard of many other guys who, as one put it, "have never found (him)self craving something with chickpeas." But hummus, tahini, falafel, dolmades, spanikopita, I'll take it all.

This is a pretty good introduction to this part of the world's food - nothing too drastic but still a few new flavor combos (Apricots in a meatball? Say what?!?) None of these ingredients are too difficult to find either - the ground coriander could be tough, but you can always take coriander seeds and grind them in a peppermill if you like. 

One thing I would change is to use my handy-dandy food chopper to chop the red onion - they didn't hold together very well with all the chunks of onion and apricot floating around in there. Smaller pieces would fix that, I believe.

And don't miss out on the dressing - its a refreshing bit that will totally transform the meal!

Meatballs with Couscous and Feta
Adapted from Real Simple, October 2010

1/2 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vinegar (white is just fine, but rice vinegar is pretty tasty)

1 pound ground lamb, beef, or a mixture of the two
1/4 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 small red onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1/3 cup breadcrumbs

1 box couscous such as this
4 ounces Feta, crumbled

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. (Can be done ahead of time) Combine the cucumbers, sliced onion, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Toss well, season with salt and pepper, and set aside (refrigerate if making this ahead of time).

2. Heat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine the lamb, apricots, coriander, chopped onion, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Form into 1 ½-inch balls (about 20) and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until cooked through, 18-22 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the couscous according to the box's directions.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside.

5. Serve the couscous with the meatballs and cucumber salad - sprinkle feta over the top. Drizzle with the dressing.
Serves 4


Kitchen Lessons, Part I

No recipe this time - just a few tips, tricks, observations, and lessons from along the way. These are all directly related to something I have recently made or something that will be popping up later this week. That'll keep you guessing, eh?

  1. Fresh garlic is super cheap and it keeps for a loooooong time.
  2. Fresh garlic can be a pain to peel and chop.
Tips & Tricks
  1. To peel fresh garlic, you have two options:
    • Leave a bit of the bottom part on the garlic clove (don't know the real term for it). Cut into that until you're almost through, then use that to help start the peel for the rest of the clove.
    • If you have a pot of hot or boiling water already, dunk the cloves into the water for about 10 seconds and the peel will slide right off. Genius. (And I can say that because it wasn't my idea.)
  2. To avoid chopping garlic with an actual knife, use a food chopper. I have one right now that I use for both garlic and nuts. I plan to buy a second one just for garlic as soon as I get another 20% off BB&B coupon. Although the garlicy nuts aren't too bad, unless they're in cookies.
  1. If the recipe doesn't look appetizing when you read it, it probably won't be appetizing once you've put in the time and effort to cook it.
  2. If a recipe looks like goulash, smells like goulash, and quacks like goulash, its probably goulash. Even if its called "stroganoff." We wouldn't have eaten it twice this week if I had paid attention.
  3. When you're making a recipe by The BC, heed her directions. They will not fail.


Its Just Plain Tasty

Tomorrow begins my favorite season, hands-down - Fall. Fall and I get along famously. Apples, cider, pumpkin bread, stew, squash, leaves, and weather that's still warm enough to grill, but its okay if you're drinking hot chocolate at the same time that you're flipping burgers. But if you are in the mood for something a little more "stick-to-your-ribs" this is a good one. We got a wok for a wedding present and while the wok is great, another fantastic part of present for me was a batch of new recipes to go with it.

And I'll just say that there isn't a lot I would change about it! You can play with it a little bit to fit whatever you have in the house (green bell pepper, chicken stock, pasta, you get the idea). This is exactly how I made it with the exception of partially freezin the beef. I was so proud of myself for remembering to take the meat out of the freezer to thaw that I didn't have the heart to break it to myself that I hadn't followed the recipe correctly. So I just cut it raw and everyone lived happily ever after!

If you want a little more heat, or if your paprika is a little old and lacking in zip, a few drops of hot sauce are a welcome addition. (But still put the paprika in because it makes the sauce pretty.)

Hungarian Goulash
From Aunt Arlene Dyk

1 1/4 pound round steak
1/4 cup margarine
2 large onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper,chopped
1-7oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup beef broth
3 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. flour
Cooked egg noodles

Partially freeze beef, then slice across the grain into bite-sized strips. In a wok or large sauté pan, melt butter, and half of the beef, and cook until brown. Remove and repeat with the other half of the beef.

Sauté onions and peppers until tender; return beef back into pan. Stir in tomatoes, broth, paprika, and salt.

Cover and simmer 15 minutes until beef is tender.

In a bowl, blend together sour cream and flour. Add 1 cup of sauce from the pan to sour cream mixture. Blend sour cream mixture to the pan; cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Serve over noodles.

Serves 4