My friend has a quince tree that was brimming with ripe quince and he brought me a bag of this beautiful fruit from his backyard. Quince is a fall fruit and resembles an apple or Asian pear, but it is quite bitter and a little chalky in texture. It makes a wonderful jam and the flavor is really brought out with slow cooking and a little sugar with almost a sweet perfume quality. I decided to make Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks with Quince because stewing brings out the best flavors in both the lamb and the quince. The dish was also enhanced by a beautiful gift of saffron he brought me back from his trip to the Middle East – a perfect gift for someone like me who loves to cook! Saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world because the stigmas are picked by hand from the crocus flower. It takes 75,000 blossoms or 225,000 to make a single pound! It has a slightly honey-sweet hay taste and imparts a beautiful yellow-orange hue to the dish so this lamb was extra special. You brown the lamb shanks with an onion, and add garlic, coriander, ginger, cinnamon a touch of tomato paste, lemon peel, beef stock, saffron, honey and quince and braise it in the oven for several hours. To finish the dish, you add some fresh lemon juice and I garnished it with fresh cilantro which brings some fresh vibrancy to the stewed dish. I served Couscous with Apricots, Mint, Cilantro, Parsley and Fried Shallots alongside and it made a delicious side dish. A wonderful fall stew with a fruit you don’t often think about pairing with a hearty lamb dish. Click here for the recipe….
This is now one of my favorite ways to cook rack of lamb, and the chermoula with the preserved lemon really makes a delicious marinade and sauce for the lamb. I usually make my own preserved lemons which are really easy and take about a month to preserve, but didn’t have any homemade on hand, so I bought a jar. I removed the pulp from the rind and chopped the rind to add to the chermoula and wanted to keep it in small pieces instead of pureeing it down with the herbs that went into the sauce for texture. There are hundreds of ways to make chermoula, but it is usually a mix of fresh herbs, garlic, spices, and vinegar. I made this chermoula in a my mini food processor with fresh cilantro and parsley, and added cumin, smoked paprika, coriander, cayenne, lemon zest and juice, garlic, olive oil, a touch of honey and preserved diced lemon rind at the end. I browned the rack of lamb in a skillet with salt and pepper and allowed it to cool a little while I prepped the vegetables. I bought 3 different kinds of beets and quartered them along with 2 bulbs of fennel. I also quartered and a large onion and tossed it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. I put them on a large baking sheet and set the rack of lamb on top and brushed the top with half of the chermoula and roasted it in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. I tossed the vegetables and continued roasting it until the internal temperature of the lamb was 120 degrees so it was medium rare which I think is the only way to eat lamb. Remove lamb and tent lightly with foil and continued roasting the vegetables until they are nicely browned and cooked through. To serve, I tumbled all the roasted vegetables onto a serving platter, placed the rack of lamb on top and brushed the lamb with a little more of the chermoula before garnishing the dish with pomegranate seeds, roasted pistachios and fresh cilantro. I made a quick yogurt sauce with garlic, lemon zest and juice and drizzled it over the dish and served more chermoula alongside the lamb. Love, love, love! Click here for recipe….
This roasted acorn squash with miso glaze is a great side dish and as the squash pieces brown, the glaze sweet becomes sweet with a salty, nutty ~umami flavor that is delicious.
Miso is a thick paste made from fermented soybeans, salt and a koji mold. It is used in Japanese soups, salad dressing, marinades and sauces and comes in several different varieties from white to yellow to dark brown. Koji is a key ingredient in miso and is a microbe that is mixed with partially cooked rice and has a nutty, floral, sweet woodsy fragrance. When it has bloomed, it is gathered and mixed with soybeans to continue the fermentation process for miso. Koji is also used to make soy sauce and sake. Miso has a salty-sweet taste and look for miso that has not been pasteurized so it still contains healthy, enzyme rich microorganisms for your gut. You can find it in the refrigerator aisle and it contains all essential amino acids and is loaded with vitamin B12. Keep it tightly sealed and it will last in the refrigerator for months. I also like to make a miso salad dressing similar to the ones they often serve in Japanese restaurants with garlic, ginger, rice vinegar and sesame oil. To make the miso glaze, mix up some miso with ginger, sake, rice vinegar, soy, and a little brown sugar and brush it over the squash. I like to line a baking tray with foil or parchment because the glaze can be a little sticky as it browns. The glaze is also good brushed on kabocha, butternut squash or sliced eggplant and makes a great glaze for salmon or chicken. click here for the recipe….
I guess I finally have to concede that we are definitely going into the fall mode after a beautiful Indian summer. It’s always difficult for me to let the summer go and put the barbecue away. It leaves me reminiscing about the summer dinner parties I should have had, or the dishes I should have tried that were on my summer food list like the recipe for Moroccan Grilled Leg of Lamb Salad with a Mint and Basil Vinaigrette and Couscous. So much food – so little time to try it all! I came across this recipe while I was watching The Kitchen cooking show and thought it would help ease me into fall cooking which it definitely did. It is super moist, and full of Mexican flavors and a real flavor departure from the regular meatloaf I make. It combines chorizo and ground beef, with the addition of roasted green chile peppers, cumin, chile powder, cayenne and lots of garlic. I used my food processor to chop all the veggies and even mix the eggs which makes the assembly go really quick. The sauce is what really makes it delicious and it starts with a tomato base, roasted green chiles, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and is sweet and sour with the addition of brown sugar and mustard. I made Yukon Gold mashed potatoes to go with it which are also more of a fall side dish for me and since the oven was on, just bumped the heat up after the meatloaf was cooked and roasted some asparagus to serve alongside. Next time I will make a double batch and freeze one for another day. Click here for recipe….
Indian Roasted Cauliflower and Quinoa Wrap with Quick Pickled Cucumber Relish and Yogurt Sauce
I spent the weekend in the San Juan islands with my friends who are vegetarian and I love the challenge of cooking something I hope they will like. I love Indian spices and was inspired by a recipe I found that has a few components, but when it is all brought together in a wrap, it is really delicious and healthy and I don’t miss meat at all. The cauliflower is roasted with Indian spices like turmeric, cardamon, coriander and cumin and while that is cooking, you make quinoa with more Indian spices. I made a quick pickled cucumber with rice wine vinegar for a little hit of acid and also made a yogurt sauce with Indian spices and lemon juice to bring the whole wrap together. I quickly heated tortillas in a dry skillet over medium high heat, and everyone assembled their own wraps. Give it a try! Click here for the recipe….
Everyone seems to love jalapeño poppers and they are quick to put together. I grilled these peppers, but you can also roast them in the oven. You can make them the day before which is always handy for saving time if you are having a party. I always wear rubber gloves when I am working with jalapeños because they burn my hands and I inevitably touch my eye and it is really painful! Take jalapeño peppers and cut them length wise and devein and seed them and place them on a baking tray or plate. The stuffing mixture is made with cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic, green onion, and lime juice, and crispy bacon which really makes it delicious! Bake them in the oven or grill them on the grill until the brown and bubbling and serve. Click here for the recipe….
I am still savoring every inch of summer I can and want to continue grilling everything! I hate saying goodbye to summer. This dinner is full of flavors like oregano, thyme, garlic and lemon and is really quick to put together. I always have frozen shrimp in the freezer as well as a jar of artichoke hearts. I combine olive oil, herbs and garlic in a bowl and add onion, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus and artichoke hearts and toss. I have a grill basket that I get super hot and put the vegetable mix in and then add a little more olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic and toss the shrimp in the oil. I like to cook the onion and pepper until lightly browned before I add the shrimp and cherry tomatoes because they don’t take as long to cook and there is nothing worse than rubbery shrimp. I grill half a lemon to squeeze over the finished dish and toss with some lemon zest and tear some fresh oregano over the whole platter. You can also roast this whole dish on a baking tray if you don’t want to bbq. The plated photo is of a roasted version of the same dish. Click here for the recipe….
Chocolate Cake with Fresh Raspberry Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache
My nephew requested a chocolate cake with raspberry frosting for his birthday. I don’t know if he was thinking it through about the fresh raspberries turning the buttercream frosting pink, but he is a real man who also eats quiche and didn’t mind! The chocolate cake recipe is one of my favorites. It uses oil and buttermilk instead of butter and is a really moist cake full of flavor with the addition of coffee, melted bittersweet chocolate and coco powder. I used fresh raspberries and put them through a fine strainer to remove the seeds and added the puree to the buttercream frosting and it has a nice, fresh, raspberry taste. I also spread a layer of raspberry jam in the center along with a layer of raspberry buttercream to drive the raspberry taste throughout the cake. To give the cake a chocolate boost, I made a chocolate ganache and poured it in the center of the cake after I piped the decorations around the top and decorated with fresh raspberries. If I had some fresh mint, I would have place some leaves next to the raspberries for a little more pop of color. The combination of chocolate and raspberries is delicious! Click here for the recipe….
Mediterranean Chickpea Burgers with Sundried Tomatoes
with Sundried Tomato, Basil, Garlic Aioli
These chickpea burgers have a lot of flavor and are vegan. The recipe makes 8 so I formed them into patties and froze the leftovers so I could have a quick dinner on a night I didn’t feel like cooking. I used my food processor, and minced chickpeas, oatmeal, spinach, garlic, onions, lemon, tomato paste and sundried tomatoes. Ground flax seeds mixed with water replaces the egg, but you could use an egg instead to bind the mixture together if you don’t need it to be vegan. I sautéed the patties in a skillet and while they were cooking, made a quick aioli to put on the bun with basil, sundried tomatoes, garlic and mayonnaise. This really adds a lot of flavor to the burger. I garnished the burger with romaine lettuce, sliced onion, sliced tomato and some avocado so it was a filling dinner! It was a 3 napkin dinner and messy, but really good. I buy the sundried tomatoes in olive oil at Trader Joe’s, as well as their frozen basil that is frozen in teaspoon sized portions which quickly thaw and can be added to a myriad of dishes in the freezer section. It’s a great way to keep fresh basil on hand at all times even in the winter. Click here for the recipe….
Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges with Chimichurri Sauce and Chipotle-Cilantro Aioli
I love to grill potatoes and sweet potatoes in the summer and start them out the same way by microwaving them in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I cook them most of the way through, and then grill them. It’s a great side dish. What makes these sweet potatoes really good are the two sauces that you drizzle over the potatoes before you serve them. There are a lot of versions of chimichurri sauce, but for me, it’s a combination of whatever fresh herbs I have in my outdoor pots – parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, or cilantro. I combine them in a mini food processor with some garlic, red wine vinegar, capers, a dash of honey and some olive oil and process it until it is loose enough to drizzle. I made a chipotle aioli with some frozen chipotle I had from a leftover can that I freeze in a little container, and added some mayonnaise and fresh cilantro to make the sauce. They have some really good pre-made sriracha mayonnaise or chipolte mayonnaise that you could also use to make it easy to put together. The sweet potatoes are delicious grilled on their own without the sauces, but it really makes a great side dish with the combination of the two sauces. You could also roast the sweet potatoes if you don’t want to grill them on the bbq. Click here for recipe….