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Juicy Lamb and Beef Burgers

10 Jun

We love lamb in this house, from grandparents to grandkid. But admittedly, the more gamey flavor of lamb is not for everyone.

Dad, working with his very nice camera) photo by Pedro de Cuba

Dad, working with his very nice camera) photo by Pedro de Cuba

This recipe, put together by my dad, Pedro, master of burgers, mixes lamb and beef, so the flavor is more subtle.

Sub in green onion if you like!

Sub in green onion if you like! Photo by Pedro de Cuba

The curry and cumin provide a sweet headiness as does the garlic. Remember to turn just once on the grill and not to press down on them; you don’t want to squeeze out the juiciness!

Grill as you would a regular beef hamburger (don't squeeze out the juices!)

Grill as you would a regular beef hamburger (don’t squeeze out the juices!) Photo by Pedro de Cuba

My son ate them on a bun with ketchup, while the rest of us had them as salad toppers with garbanzos. Give them a try! Awesome riff on a BBQ favorite.

Make em any shape you want!

Make em any shape you want! Photo by Pedro de Cuba

Lamb Burgers (makes 8 generous burgers)

1 lb ground lamb

1.5 lbs. ground beef

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped fine

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 Cup plain breadcrumbs

1 Tbs curry powder

1 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (dried)

¼ tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together thoroughly, but trying not to overwork the meat.

Divide into desired size of burger. Grill 4- 5 minutes on each side (don’t press down as you don’t want to lose the fat!) to desired doneness. Serve as you would regular hamburgers or serve as patties with couscous, veggies, yogurt sauce, in the Mediterranean style.


Mango Chimichurri Salsa (for grilled meats and seafood)

7 Jun

When it comes to camping food, go bold or go home is my motto. This is no time for subtlety.

Our delicious dinner

Our delicious dinner

So, when Pedro (my dad) showed up at the campsite with some steaks last week. I was all in. He simply sprinkled salt and pepper on the steaks and got to grilling. His hint for you today is that starting with defrosted steaks still a bit cold in the center helps to keep the rare in medium rare when things start moving quickly on the charcoal grill. A fair bit of marbling on a steak is desirable, because you want that fat to melt and season the steak as opposed to drying out a leaner cut.

I decide to surprise everyone with a different sort of dressing for the steak: a mango chimichurri salsa, a riff on the parsley-based Argentinean salsa for steeak. Continue reading

Traditional Irish Shepherd’s Pie with Lamb

18 Mar

So about this Anglo-Irish party.

I have long, long, loooong wanted to stage a dramatic reading of a play at someone’s home. You know, just get copies of a play for everyone, assign roles and read it. In my mind’s eye, it would be a wine-sodden affair (to ease stage fright and add to the hilarity), and there would be good food between the acts to keep the energy going (and keep the wine from creating utter chaos). I mean, I like a regular old dinner party as much as anyone, but since I can’t seem to leave well enough alone, I thought this would be a worthy way to imbibe in the name of Art.

A view of the early buffet items

A view of the early buffet items

This would, however, require a lot more space than I have in my little apartment. So I mentioned it to likely friends over the years, and everyone thought it would be a great thing indeed. A few even laid claim to having thought up the idea themselves (which I have most vociferously not allowed to happen…you know who you are and you are never-ever-ever going to get away with it).

Before the mashed potato topping

Before the mashed potato topping

But no one offered to have it at theirs.

Finally, I did what all of us high achievers must do when we have a great idea. I did it myself.

I set a date, commandeered my parents’ kitchen and living room in their absence (which in my teenage years would have been called having a party when your parents are away and sort of hoping it doesn’t go all Risky Business on you), invited a few friends, made an executive decision on the play (The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Play for Serious People by Oscar Wilde). I ordered multiple copies from the local library. Then I started menu planning.

This is where we wonder whether we've poured ourselves enough wine to last through Act One. We ended up bringing the bottles along...just in case

This is where we wonder whether we’ve poured ourselves enough wine to last through Act One. We ended up bringing the bottles along…just in case

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The Best Ever Slow Cooker Beef Stew

16 Mar

I’ll tell you more about the party I made this large amount of Beef Stew for, but I can’t tell you right now, because I am still recovering from the fun and therefore just going to do a workmanlike job on this post…can’t manage much more…

Brown those veggies...I don't even like celery, but this worked beautifully!

Brown those veggies…I don’t even like celery, but this worked beautifully!

(…let me tell you that getting the little man to soccer at 9 a.m. this morning was a testament to a mother’s love. Actually two mothers’ and one dad’s love, as right there beside me this morning were two of last night’s guests cheering on their kid in the freezing cold! We came home and ate this for leftovers!) 

Don't skip the browning of meat and really draws out sweetness and adds complexity

Don’t skip the browning of meat and veggies…it really draws out sweetness and adds complexity

But for now, all you need to know about the party is that the theme was Anglo-Irish (Think St. Patty’s Day meets Oscar Wilde), the good cheer was flowing, and this beef stew – tender, rich, deep, complex, and hearty – provided much-needed ballast for a full sail kind of night! Do it, do it, do it!

2014-03-15 beef stew

Slow Cooker Beef Stew (feeds a crowd)

1-2 Tbs olive oil

2.5 – 3 lbs stewing beef, cubed

1-2 Tbs olive oil

2 Cups Vidalia onion, minced

1 Cup carrots, peeled and chopped to 1/4 “ chunks

½ Cup celery

1 Tbs or more of minced garlic

2 Cups potatoes, peeled and chunked

¼-1/2 Cup dry red wine

2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Pinch hot red pepper flakes

2 generous Tbs tomato paste

2 Cups low-sodium or homemade beef broth

1 bay leaf

¼ Cup white flour

½ tsp salt

Heat 1 Tbs of oil in a skillet to fairly high and brown the meat quickly in batches and turning often. The idea is to create some complexity, not to cook the meat, so work quickly and don’t be too much of a perfectionist. Add oil as needed, and put meat in slow cooker.

In the same skillet, brown onions, cooking for a minute on high then lowering heat to medium. Add carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened and golden. Add potatoes and cook another minute. Add to slow cooker.

In the same skillet, add a splash of red wine, Worcestershire sauce, pepper flakes and tomato paste. Stir to loosen browned bits in the skillet, then pour over ingredients in crockpot. Add broth and bay leaf, sprinkle with flour and salt, turn to combine everything. Cover and cook on low for 12 hours (or 4-6 hours on high). You’ll want plenty of bread for mopping up the gorgeous sauce.

2014: The Year of the Empanada (first in an occasional series)

18 Jan

I love empanadas. The “pan” part of the word comes from the word for bread in Spanish, and empanadas are basically stuffed bread pockets. That’s basically…they have many permutations and depending where you are from they might be made with corn dough, wheat flour, fried or baked. They may be stuffed with meat or chicken or seafood or vegetables. We also call them pastelillos in Puerto Rico, pastel referring to pies, much like meat pies are hand-held dough pockets in other places.

Entry-level empanadas...premade discs. Do not be ashamed! I am not.

Entry-level empanadas…premade discs. Do not be ashamed! I am not.

Regular readers know that my son and I are not big sandwich eaters, but empanadas actually do the same job and we love those. You can pack them up for a picnic, grab them on the run and eat them in the car, have them for an afternoon snack after school, serve them as appetizers with an aperitif when your guests walk in the door.

Improvised rolling pin. Yet another reason to enjoy wine responsibly

Improvised rolling pin. Yet another reason to enjoy wine responsibly (photo: Ashley Fifer)

Every country seems to have a version of empanadas; Jamaican meat patties, Indian samosas, even Chinese dim sum (potstickers) could be called empanadas.



This year I want to explore the world of empanadas. My friend Ashley and my godson Sean have agreed to go on this journey with me (and calling them out here is my way of holding them to it). Ashley was my cooking buddy for this first go and took the picture of me rolling the dough. Continue reading

Cocktail Meatballs (Fry for Now or Bake for Later)

8 Sep

The school year has started for me (for those who don’t know, in my other life I am a college professor of English as a Second Language) and will start for my FIRST-GRADER (!?!) on Monday.

I love a little army of meatballs. I do them in my fancy toaster oven!

I love a little army of meatballs. I do them in my fancy toaster oven!

I like to start the semester with the first two weeks of my lesson plans prepped, photocopies made and ready-to-go, and….my freezer full of home-made dishes that I can pull out in a heartbeat and serve with an easy starch and a steamed vegetable. The older my son gets, the more activities we have outside school, and the harder it gets for me to get to the gym. When dinner’s already ready, I am more relaxed and have fewer excuses to keep me from the treadmill.

Cooked! Meatballs are one of my favorite things...

Cooked! Meatballs are one of my favorite things…

Meatballs are one of our favorites. If you bake them, you can freeze them. Then, you have loads of options, Drop them in tomato sauce to defrost and make delicious pasta gravy. Just heat them up and serve with rice or buttered noodles or pesto. Make a meatball hero. Serve to unexpected guests with toothpicks as an attractive appetizer. Yes, meatballs in the freezer make life much easier. So here they are, simple to make (the little guy helps with the smashing and meatball making) and yet very, very tasty.



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Big Bang Burgers: Four Ingredients, Deliciously Juicy

7 Jun

Do you buy frozen beef patties for summer grilling? Really? Please tell me you don’t. Or at least, please tell me that you have done it for the last time! When you see how easy it is to make tasty, juicy burgers that are infinitely superior to those tasteless wooden slabs, and only use four ingredients, I know you will make your own next time. And your family and guests will be glad you did.

Destined for the freezer

Destined for the freezer

We certainly were. Several days before our recent beach camping trip to Hither Hills State Park here on the East End of Long Island, I made about a dozen burgers (which took all of five minutes, even with Leandro doing the burger formation), cooked a couple for dinner, then wrapped and froze the rest. Ours are a variety of sizes, as a certain almost-six-year-old was in charge of forming the patties. I like having many sizes actually, because it suits different appetities. Adjust cooking times accordingly.

Here's one we ate at home

Here’s one we ate at home

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Moroccan Spice Rub: We were sniffing it like glue

28 Feb

Adriana and I love to cook together, but this time she gets sole credit for this intoxicating Moroccan Spice Rub and the juicy roast she marinaded it with.

Pork Roast with Morrocan Spice Rub

Pork Roast with Moroccan Spice Rub

From the moment she waved the deep brick brown paste under my nose when Leandro and I arrived at her home for a sleepover, I was hooked and dabbing  the sides of my mouth. And not because it looked a lot like hashish, because of course I do not know what a hunk of hashish looks like, do I? Continue reading

Basic Baked Meatballs: Simple, Adaptable, Freezeable

26 Jan

Great Super Bowl party buffet idea!

The other day I posted my recipe for fancy-cheesy meatballs. Here now, as promised, the basic meatballs that I did just in case we had a child who wanted something more simple (we did not). Baked and basic, you can add any seasonings or sauces to them to make them suit your mood. (Try Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce)

(You can also try my albóndigas variation which is pretty easy and includes Old Bay, or Pedro’s pan-fried  albóndigas, or Ham & Cheese meatballs in the oven. I do like my meatballs!)

I now have a bunch of basics in the freezer, and will very likely pull them out for Super Bowl…and serve them with toothpicks. If I can find the right passionfruit juice, I will soon post a passionfruit sauce recipe that my friend Mayra used to do in PR. I just found the recipe among some old papers and I am eager to try it.

Otherwise, any BBQ-type thick dipping sauce will do!

Basic Baked Meatballs

Basic Baked Meatballs

Basic Baked Meatballs

1 egg

1 Tbs fresh parsley, chopped (or 2 tsp dry)

1 Tbs grated onion

1 tsp garlic, minced

1 tsp Adobo powder

1 grating black pepper

1 lb. ground beef (can include ¼ lb. ground pork)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix all ingredients except meat until combined. Add meat in chunks. Mix lightly until well combined and roll into 1.5” balls. Place on a foil-covered rimmed baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into one reaches 160°F. Serve as cocktail meatballs with your favorite sauce, add to pasta sauce, or make into sandwiches. They will adapt to just about any flavor palette.

Meatballs for Good Friends (and a full freezer) Part 1 (with cheese)

23 Jan

(Three hundredth post!!!!)

Cooking a nice meal for both parents and kids does not have to involve making two separate dinners.Well, not exactly, anyway.

I confess to getting cold feet halfway through my prep and making myself a safety net, so let’s say this time I made one-and-a-half meals, but in the process, I really stocked the freezer for the new semester.

The juicy, savory, binding

The juicy, savory, binding

I made some “fancy” meatballs and some basic ones (that recipe later in the week) for a Single Mothers By Choice-three-family dinner here at home last weekend…pasta, meatballs and red sauce…can you really go wrong? My friend, Pam, brought the salad fixings, and Kim brought a sinful dessert (which one pretends is for the kids, but is really just as much for the growns) and everything went swimmingly! And everyone liked both fancy and plain.

On their way to the oven

On their way to the oven

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