Lamb Sliders

We all know Americans LOVE their burgers.  We love them any which we we can get them.  We like them big, we like them small, we like them with beef, or chicken, or even vegetarian.  We love to dress them up or dress them down, depending on the occasion.  We can’t get enough of them.   Hamburgers are about as American as it comes.

Sliders are small, mini-burgers that are becoming just as popular and can be enjoyed just as creatively as their bigger siblings, the hamburgers.  Sliders were created by the American fast food restaurant, White Castle, back in the 1940’s.  At first, they were small burgers with cheese and grilled onions served on a small bun. Today, anything goes.  Today, any kind of burger or sandwich that is served on a small bun or a slider roll is considered a slider. The term “slider” was fist used as a nickname to describe these little mini-burgers by the U.S. Navy because they were so greasy and tended to slide all around.  The name stuck, and they have been known as sliders ever since.

When we went to the Denver restaurant Root Down to help celebrate our friends Janet & Bob’s 50th wedding anniversary A Golden Celebration a couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite menu items that were tried were the lamb sliders.  They have been on my mind ever since.  Well, I finally decided enough was enough, and it was time to make them.

Because I made lamb sliders, I chose to make the meal a bit more exotic, and made a Moroccan pumpkin and lentil stew as a side dish, then added a few olives and garlic French fries to the plate as well.  I served it with a smooth and fruity pinot noir to finish off the meal in style.  I topped my sliders with some of my pesto to make them perfect.  Gnocchi with Chicken, Vegetables and Pesto    pesto and lamb compliment each other very well.  These were very easy to make and very tasty to eat.

IMG_0295

Lamb Sliders

IMG_0287

1 lb ground lamb

4-6 slider buns

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP dried onion

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp cumin

1-2 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped fine

 

Mix everything together and incorporate all the ingredients together well.  Form the meat into small patties that will fit the buns.  Let them set in the refrigerator for at least an hour before cooking to allow the flavors to really come to life.

IMG_0288

Once the patties are set and cooked, put them inside the buns and fix them to your likings, just like you would any other burger.  The only difference between these burgers and regular burgers is the size.  But don’t be fooled by their size.  These little sliders pack a very tasty and delicious punch with the same gusto as their bigger siblings.

IMG_0296

 

 

Gambas a la Zurrukatunia

Whether you know them by gambas, camerones, prawns or shrimp, no matter which way you make them, they are going to be good.  I think I could eat shrimp everyday.  They are definitely some of my favorite foods.  I knew shrimp was going to be on the menu, and I was craving something different.  I made the trek upstairs to my library and started perusing my books.  I am very glad I did too.  I came up with a perfect Spanish gambas or shrimp recipe.  The recipe I chose was to make called for scallops, but I had shrimp defrosted, so the scallops will just have to be another time.  I made Gambas a la Zurrukatania or shrimp with corn, tomatoes and a pepper sauce.

 

IMG_0284

Shrimp with Tomato, Corn and Pepper Sauce (Gambas a la Zurrukatania)

IMG_0270

The Sauce

1 green pepper, roasted and peeled

salt & pepper to taste

1 small bunch or Italian parsley

2 TBSP + 1/2 cup olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and sliced

1 TBSP garlic

1 cup dry white wine

 

Roast the green pepper until completely blackened, then place it a plastic bag to let it sweat for at least 30 minutes.  Peel the skin completely and rinse off all the black and charred bits.  Roasting Peppers

Remove the stems from the parsley and place it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds.

IMG_0271

After 30 seconds, remove the parsley and immediately place it in a cold ice bath, to stop the cooking process.

IMG_0272

While the pepper is sweating and the parsley is chilling, saute the shallot and garlic in olive oil and the salt & pepper for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onion is cooked, but not caramelized.

IMG_0273

When the onions and garlic are done, add the wine and scrape the bottom of the skillet to get all the extra bits on the bottom.

IMG_0274

Be careful when you add the wine.  You could get an unexpected flambe.  Fortunately, I have been trained for these, and the flame died down almost as quickly as it started, but it was still a bit of a shock since I was not expecting that.

IMG_0275

Once the flame died down, I added the roasted pepper, the parsley, and the shallot and garlic mixture, along with the rest of the olive oil to the food processor to blend it all together to make the sauce.

IMG_0276

IMG_0277

The Shrimp and Vegetables

1 1/2-2 lbs large prawns or shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup frozen corn

2-3 TBSP olive oil

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in 1/2

1/2 cup pitted olives cut in 1/2

1/3 cup Spanish sweet peppers

1-2 TBSP Peruvian peppers

salt & pepper to taste

2 TBSP fresh basil, chiffonade into thin strips

1 TBSP lemon juice

 

Saute the corn and shrimp in the olive oil, until the shrimp is completely cooked.

IMG_0278

Once the shrimp is cooked, add the rest of the ingredients, except for the lemon juice, and combine together well.  Then add the lemon juice. This recipe is the same you would use if making it with scallops.

IMG_0279

IMG_0283

Mix the lemon juice in with the shrimp and vegetable mixture, and the dish is now ready to serve.  I served it over a combination of red lentils and rice, with warmed ciabiatta and the same dry white wine I used to make the sauce.  You can serve it over plain rice, pasta, or just as is too.

If serving it with rice or pasta, layer the plate with the starch, place the shrimp around, then add the vegetables on top. Spoon the sauce around the mixture.  You have a colorful and flavorful fiesta on your plate.  !Delicioso!

IMG_0285

 

 

Spicing Up the Leftovers

You all know how much I love to recreate from leftovers.  It has become a fun game.  I call it “What can I do with it next?”  You also know about my “friend” and alter ego, The Queen of Leftovers.  She and I are tight, tight, tight.  We get together and rummage through the fridge quite often.  She paid me a visit again yesterday.  Our results were colorful, spicy and full of flavor.  Yet another successful collaboration between The Queen and I.

I seasoned some sirloin steaks in spicy Southwestern style and let them marinate for about 4 hours before grilling them up.  Then I made spicy, chili-lime roasted sweet potatoes.  I recreated my leftover red beans & rice and shrimp Creole Honey Mustard Shrimp with Red Beans & Rice into stuffed mushrooms, topped with mozzarella cheese.  After the prep time, it only took about 20 minutes to cook, and soon we were enjoying a Southwestern meal just as good as one we might find anywhere from along the Rio Grande down to New Mexico or Arizona; perhaps even better.  Since I served steak, and the flavors were bold and spicy, the only wine choice was a bold red.  I went with a Spanish Temperanillo.  I believe it was one of the bottles we brought back from Spain when we were there in August 2019.

IMG_0267

The mushrooms were super easy to make.  I just cleaned them and popped the stems off, then filled them with the red beans & rice, topped them with cheese and a shrimp portion.  Then I roasted them at 350* F for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese was all melted and the mushrooms were cooked.  These were easy-peasy and super delicious.

IMG_0260

IMG_0261

IMG_0266

We love spicy foods and bold flavors.  Sweet potatoes are fun to play with, because they are so versatile and go so well with many different flavors and many different styles of cooking.  Since I had a spicy theme going, I decided to continue that theme with the sweet potatoes as well, and I love the chili-lime combination, particularly on sweet potatoes, so this was a “no-brainer”.  You can make these as simple or as complex as you like.  It’s all good no matter what you do or how you make them.

Chili-Lime Sweet Potatoes

IMG_0263

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into wedges

1 shallot, sliced very thin

1 jalapeno, diced fine

1/4 red bell pepper diced fine

1 TBSP garlic

2-3 tsp chopped cilantro

2-3 TBSP brown sugar

1-2 tsp chili-lime seasoning or chili powder

1 TBSP lime juice

1/2 stick of butter, 1/2 melted and 1/2 cut into pieces for the top

 

Preheat oven to 350* F or 180* C.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.

 

Toss all the ingredients together well, except the butter pieces.  Place everything in a single layer in your baking pan.  Then randomly place the butter pieces on top of the sweet potatoes.  Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender.

IMG_0264

IMG_0269

Put it all together, pour the wine, and sit back and enjoy.

IMG_0268

 

 

Pear-Apple Custard Tart

I have been so good and have not been baking or making any desserts at all for quite some time.  Then … my sweet tooth woke up and started craving sweets again.  I knew I couldn’t tame the beast for too long, but I put forth a valiant effort none-the-less.  Every now and then, though, I suppose it is OK, just as long as I do not let it over rule.  🙂  Besides, I made a fruit tart, with both pears and apples, so how bad could it really be, right?!  OK, the fact that I made it as a custard tart and added ice cream may not make it so healthy, but it does make it taste really good.

 

I mix apples and pears together all the time.  They have similar tastes and similar qualities, and when I don’t have enough of either for the recipe, I just mix them together.  Two fruits are better than one anyways.  🙂

IMG_0256

Pear-Apple Custard Tart

IMG_0252

The Crust or Pate Sucre

1 1/2 cups flour

6 TBSP cold butter, cubed

2 TBSP powdered sugar

dash of salt

1 egg

5-6 TBSP heavy whipping cream

 

In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, sugar and butter together until it makes a crumbly texture and everything is well blended.  Then add the egg and cream and continue to pulse until you have a dough ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and let set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using.

 

The Tart

Either 4 apples or pears, or 2 of each, peeled and sliced thinly

1/4 cup butter, melted

3 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

2 tsp vanilla

1 TBSP ginger

2 tsp cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 180* C.

 

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and place in a fluted tart pan.  Once the dough is in place, press it firmly to the pan.  Then arrange the pear and apple slices.

IMG_0253

To make the custard, whisk the rest of the ingredients together well, and carefully pour over the fruit.

IMG_0254

IMG_0255

Place the tart in the hot oven and bake between 45-60 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and the custard filling is set.  Allow it to completely cool before cutting.

IMG_0258

I like pears and apples warmed, so warm it up right before serving, and add a dollop of either ice cream or whipped cream for the perfect fruity tart.  Delicious!

IMG_0257

 

 

 

 

 

The Age of Aquarius

I have been so busy, that I have not had much time in the kitchen lately, so I thought I would open up a little on other parts of who I am.  You all know I am very passionate about cooking, and wine, and you all know my world outside of the kitchen is a very wet one indeed, but there is another part of me you don’t know.  I am a very complex person, with many different sides and many different facets to my personality.  I have many interests.  I enjoy life and do my best to live life to the fullest.

I am an Aquarian through and through.  There is no doubt at all about what my zodiac sign is.  It’s almost like it was written in the stars just for me.  The Aquarian time starts tomorrow, January 20 and ends on February 18.  My birthday falls somewhere in the middle.

We Aquarian water bearers are fiercely independent, (some would also say fiercely stubborn), eccentric and energetic, highly intellectual, free-spirited, spontaneous, adventurous, mysterious, and very, very creative.    We do not like to be boxed in or constrained.  Usually, this means we are rebels, but definitely rebels with a cause.  All these unique qualities can be both good and bad.  I prefer to look at them as good and challenging, although there are plenty of others who would strongly disagree.  I say that mine is a social vision to right the wrongs, and though I can be very harshly critical of how things are, I believe I also have a better vision of how they could be.  Others would call it harsh, cynical or even dark-hearted, and believe me, I have certainly been accused of all of those, though that is certainly not my intent at all.  I want things to be good, but I am a realist.  There is no such thing as perfection or a Utopian world, as much as I may wish it to be.  I am very strong and tough, and often courageous, but even though I put up a very strong shield, once that shield has been broken or penetrated, I can also be very sensitive and easily hurt.

I live in a watery world.  When I am not in the kitchen cooking, my world is filled with water, or wine.  Either is perfectly acceptable to me.  I think it is because of the Aquarian love of adventure and the love of experimentation that allows me to cook so freely and without abandon.  I think it also contributes to my love of wine as well.  Often times, we Aquarians feel out of sync with society, which I can certainly attest to.  There are many times when I need to get away from it all just to unwind and recharge my batteries.  More so than not, I choose to unwind with a glass or two of the nectars of the Gods.  It could be a rich, oakey, buttery chardonnay, which is certainly my favorite, or a velvety smooth Argentine malbec, or something completely different still, just as long as it is a good wine or something libatious and just as spirited as I am.

Do I want to hold a glass of sunshine?

Image result for photos of chardonnay

Or I am in the mood for something darker and richer?

Either one is a wonderful choice and both are deliciously suitable, anytime, any situation.

 

No matter what, no matter who you are, be true to yourself.  Know your strengths and your weaknesses.  Learn and grow from each of them.  Never give up, and never quit.

National Popcorn Day

Popcorn is one of my absolute favorite things to eat.  I could easily eat a big, huge bowl of it everyday and never get tired of it.  Although I don’t it eat it everyday,  I could very easily do so.  The only reason I don’t though is because Larry is not nearly as big a fan as I am, so I have to settle for maybe just a couple times a week instead, unless I want to eat the whole bowl by myself, which I have done many, many times too.

 

Popcorn is an American tradition, with evidence dating it back 80,000 years.  There was proof in the Bat Caves of New Mexico that show the Native Americans made popped corn 5600 years ago.  When this was found in 1948, the kernels we so well preserved that they were still “poppable” at the time of discovery.  The Native Americans have used popcorn for many different things, from headdresses to decorations, to snacks.

There are 6 types of corn used to make popcorn.  They are grown mostly in Kentucky, Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska.  They are from the family called Zea mays everta, which is the only type of corn that can actually “pop”.  The corn, while still on the cob is considered to be a vegetable.  Once the kernels have been removed from the cob, they are considered to be a grain, and this particular type of grain is a type of wild grass.  The process that allows the kernels to “pop” happens when they are combined with hot oil and steam, creating pressure that forces the kernels to pop between 20-50 times their normal size.

Popcorn has been an American snack favorite since the mid 1800’s.  It became popular at fairs and carnivals because it was relatively cheap to make, which means, they could sell it for a very low price and still make it very profitable.  So even when money was tight, people could enjoy this easily transported, delicious snack.  When air popped, popcorn is actually a relatively healthy snack.  It is full of the same vitamins and minerals found in corn and it is very high in fiber.  It is also considered to be a weight-loss friendly snack because it is so high in fiber, has low calories and has a low energy density, and popcorn is rich with antioxidants and polyphenals, which help prevent cell damage.  But …. popcorn is only considered to be a healthy snack when it is not loaded with all the good stuff, like butter, salt, caramel, cheese, etc.

There are literally hundreds of ways you can flavor popcorn, with more and more ways being created all the time.  Some people like it sweet, others like it with cheese, and some like it spicy.

 

 

 

But I am a popcorn purist.  As much as I love to experiment with all others kinds of food, popcorn to me is best when made with just the simple stuff; popcorn, oil, salt and butter.

IMG_0247

January 19th is National popcorn day.  I know I am a day early, but it is popcorn day for me everyday.  Let’s get popping.

 

 

 

 

 

Creole Honey Mustard Shrimp with Red Beans & Rice

It’s been a while since took us to a culinary adventure down south; to the land of the bayous and blues.  It was one of those days when yet again, time was not on my side and I needed to come up with something for dinner in a hurry.  On days like this, I literally rummage through my fridge to see what I have and what I can use.  This is most definitely a Cajun/Creole thing to do.  This is actually how I learned how to cook from one of my aunts who was a Creole from the Louisiana/Texas bayous.  She would also cook with a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and the result was always delicious.

Creole and Cajun cooking are very similar, with only subtle and minor differences.  Cajun food tends to be spicier than Creole foods, with more of an emphasis on the “heat”  from paprika, peppers, garlic, and onions, whereas Creole foods are not as “hot” and use more herbs, like oregano, marjoram and thyme to season their foods.  The South, and the bayou regions in particular, were settled by a wide variety of people, all of whom left their mark on the local foods, to create what is now known as either Cajun or Creole style cooking.  Cajun foods tend to be spicier than Creole foods, and are considered more rustic by comparison to the more refined and “sophisticated” Creole foods.  Creole foods originated in New Orleans, and have influences from the German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, English, African and Native American people of the region, whereas Cajun foods are found more in the rural areas.

I had some large prawns that were just calling out to me.  Shrimp and rice are two foods that were just made to go together.  But I didn’t just want boring shrimp and rice.  I wanted something with more pizzazz and more flavor and flair.  So I dressed them up, or down as the case may be, and decided to make them Creole style.  I had some Creole honey mustard dressing that I added lime juice and some Peruvian lime chili pepper to for my marinade for the shrimp.  When I decided on this combination, making red beans & rice was just a given.  If I had time, I would have made some cornbread with honey butter to go with the meal, but a lot of time was something I did not have, so just a good, crusty ciabiatta would have to do.  Either a red or white wine would compliment the meal, but because I made shrimp, I decided to go for a white.

IMG_0243

Creole Honey Mustard Shrimp

IMG_0235

1-1 1/2 lbs large prawns r shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 1/2 cups honey mustard dressing

2 tsp lime juice

1 tsp Peruvian lime chili powder

 

Mix everything together well and marinated the shrimp for about 1/2 hour or so before cooking.  You can grill it or pan fry it in the sauce.  Cook the sauce for about 5 minutes, then reserve for later.

 

Red Beans & Rice

IMG_0234

2 cups cooked white rice

1/3 each red & yellow bell pepper, diced fine

1 lb chorizo

1 jalapeno, diced fine

1-2 TBSP garlic

1/2 onion, diced fine

1 cup frozen corn

1 can dark red kidney beans, with juice

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 TBSP cilantro, chopped fine

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

 

Cook the chorizo, then add all the rest of the ingredients, except the cilantro and the beans, and cook until all the vegetables are tender.

IMG_0239

Once the vegetables are cooked, add the kidney beans with their juice and the rice, and mix everything together well.  Then add the cilantro and mix again.

IMG_0242

Once the rice and vegetables are done, it’s time to eat.  Dish up the rice and place the shrimp on top, then add a little extra sauce on the shrimp.  Come and get it!  Laizzez le bontemps roulez!

IMG_0245