Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mint and Feta Cheese Lamb Burgers with Home Made Tzatziki Sauce

This was something that we planned for a few days and when it came together...WOW!  If you are a fan of Gyros then you will LOVE this recipe!

Here is what you will need to make the Lamb Burgers:

3/4 - 1 Lb. of Ground Lamb (Again, we got ours from Springfield Butcher because it's the best!)
1/4 C Fresh, Copped Mint
1/2 C Feta Cheese
1/8 Tsp. Salt
1/8 Tsp. Pepper

Here is what you will need to make the tzatzikt sauce (Slightly modified from Michael Symon's "Live to Cook:  Recipes and Techniques to rock Your Kitchen.")

1 cucumber
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
2 C Plain Yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Mint
1 Garlic Clove, Minced

Pre-heat your grill to about 425 degrees.  Mix all of the burger ingredients and make your patties.  Place the patties in the refrigerator and keep them cool as you make the tzatziki sauce.

Dice the cucumber, sprinkle it with the kosher salt and let it drain in a colander for about two hours.  When time is up, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and keep cool.

Cook the burgers at 425 degrees for about 4 minutes on each side for a medium burger.  (Toast the buns on the grill as you cook the burger.) Pull the burgers off, let them rest for 2-4 minutes, and top with the tzatziki sauce.  When it is all said and done, they will look like this.

We ate it with a baby spinach, feta cheese, dried cherry, almond, and vinaigrette dressing.  Enjoy!

- Chris

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Asiago, Spinach & Bacon Quiche

Oh, quiche. The egg dish that is often relegated to 'special' brunches can really be so much more...in my house, it is a viable dinner alternative every once in awhile and with the amount of ingredients you can chuck in? Why deny yourself of quirky quiche? 

The favorite one in our house uses asiago cheese, sautéed spinach and bacon (albeit turkey bacon most of the time). But forget the ingredients - the true key to quiche is keeping it moist yet not runny and, of course, flavorful.

For starters, I don't bake so the crust I use comes from the pillsbury box - I know, I know, how unlike me! - and just needs to be rolled flat at room temperature and then gently laid into a round (pie) pyrex dish that's been lightly greased. Do your best not to tear the dough and try to get the sides to come up as close to the dish edge as you can. Then place that in the oven at 325 degrees for about 6-10 minutes and keep an eye on it. You want it to crisp up A LITTLE but not to fully cook; after all, it is going back in the oven once it is loaded up. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 large eggs (yolk and whites, the whole egg), a splash of milk (more than this will ruin the consistency!), some salt & pepper to taste and about 2 cups of grated asiago. We used the rest of a rosemary asiago that I found at a gourmet market and then finished with a regular, find-it-anywhere block of asiago. The 2 cups is negotiable too - honestly, we might have used more than that because we are cheese whores, so adjust accordingly. Whisk that together and let it sit. Next stir in some chopped shallots (1/4 cup) and 4-5 slices of crisp, cooked bacon that you've crumbled or sliced. Then add in the sautéed spinach....sidebar, here is how I do spinach: hot, wide sauté pan coated with olive oil, torn fresh spinach leaves with the stems removed, 2 cloves of minced garlic, a splash of white wine and a sprinkle of salt. Toss the spinach frequently and once it is wilted and soaked in the liquids, remove from heat.

Pour the mixture into the warmed, crisp crust and place it back in the oven at 340 degrees for 25 minutes. Check on it towards the end and adjust the time accordingly - you want the crust to be just browned and should be able to stick a toothpick into the quiche and have it come out clean. Let it sit for a few minutes before slicing to ensure that the pieces stay together. 

Served with a mixed green salad & champagne vinaigrette (courtesy of Trader Joe's).

- Melissa 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Simple, Delicious Surf and Turf With Fresh Fruit Salsa

     Danielle and I were lounging around earlier today, as you should on a Saturday, when we thought about what we were going to eat for lunch.  We had no plans and nothing in the house sounded all that appetizing.  Who comes to the rescue?  Me. 

     We had been watching Iron Chef America when someone began to cook scallops and they caught Danielle's eye.  We decided to make a trip to Springfield Butcher and make a delicious, easy lunch out of it.

     Here is what you will need:

1/2 lb. Dry Aged Flat Iron Steak
4 - Bacon Wrapped Scallops
1 - Mango
1 - Jalapeno
3/4 C of Fresh Strawberries
1/8 C Cilantro
1/8 C Red Onion
2-3 Tbsp. of Fresh Lime Juice
1 Tsp. Lime Zest
Splash of Balsamic Vinegar
Salt, Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

     Here is how to make the fresh fruit salsa.

     Chop the strawberries, mango, and cilantro.  Place them into a bowl and add the lime zest and juice.  Dice both the jalapeno and the onion and add them to the fruit mixture.  Splash with balsamic vinegar, stir, and salsa complete.

     Here is how to cook the steak and scallops.

     Pre-heat the grill to 475 degrees.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper into both sides of the scallops and the steak.  Sprinkle extra virgin olive oil on both sides of the scallops but not the steak.  Cook the steak for about three minutes on each side for medium rare.  The scallops will need about 3-4 minutes on each side.  When complete, this is what your plate should look like!

     Believe it or not, the fresh fruit salsa pairs extremely well with the steak.  I know, fruit and steak sounds like a complete man-law violation but try it.  It is delicious.  Enjoy!

- Chris

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Garlic & Goat Cheese stuffed Chicken Breasts

So I don't know about you, but bone-in chicken breast are my favorite way for this everyday poultry. Boneless cutlets are great and certainly easy, but can lack more than one level of flavor....and a whole roasted chicken can be gorgeous but is full of work. So the chicken breast in the way to go in our house and they are a lot easier than you might think... 

For this method, I first created a blend to stuff the chicken with using some herbed goat cheese (the kind that comes herbed already in the package, though plain would work just as well), 1 tsp parsley, some lemon juice, zest from that lemon and some roasted garlic cloves. While you can certainly use store-bought roasted garlic, I prefer to do my own by simply placing some whole cloves into a small ramekin with olive oil and salt (I used spanish rosemary salt) and baking it for about 5-7 minutes. Then I let it cool a little and mixed it in with the cheese, etc. 

Next you want to clean the chicken breasts and then cut a deep slit in the meatier portion of the breast along the side of each one. You don't want to completely cut the meat off though, so be careful, just make a pocket that you can stuff. Now you can season the chicken's skin with some olive oil, salt, fresh cracked pepper (I use white peppercorns) and a little thyme. Then using your hands - believe me a utensil of any kind just won't work as well - you want to stuff the slit/pocket with the cheesy-goodness mixture. Fill it until it is packed in, and then if you're as gluttonous as me, fill it some more and then use a toothpick to sort of fasten it closed and prevent spillage. Ideally, you don't want to lose too much of the cheese during cooking. 

Roast the chicken in a roasting pan for about 35 minutes at 425 degrees. Keep an eye on the skin though and if it starts to look dry or like it might burn, use an olive oil mister to keep it moist. 

Served with asparagus saffron risotto. For that some tips on that recipe (just nix the fennel and replace the tomatoes with asparagus)...check out an earlier blog post here: http://foodbloggers1.blogspot.com/2011/07/fennel-and-tomato-risotto-with-sausage.html

- Melissa

Monday, February 13, 2012

Amaretto & Meyer Lemon Shrimp

So my entire inspiration for this dish stemmed from the Meyer lemons popping up in every store around me these past two weeks. This is their season to shine and they are so. much. more. than just a dessert ingredient! I decided to do a little research and figure out what I could use them for...and here we are. Amaretto & Meyer Lemon Shrimp - a sure fire way to impress your stomach or your dinner guests!

So, just an FYI, the dish is similar to a scampi and if you know how to make that, you're halfway there already. First you want to ensure that you have some decent prawns for this dish, preferably fresh from the fish market. Frozen, bagged and tiny shrimp will just not work. Now you need to make the marinade, which is the most "complicated" step in this recipe and guess what? Its SIMPLE.

In a bowl, mix 2-3 tbsp of melted butter (unsalted is best, but the salted won't ruin things), 2 tbsp of olive oil, some dry white wine (don't go too crazy here!), 3 cloves of minced garlic and a few pours of Amaretto liqueur. Next stir in some salt and pepper to taste, then about 2 tsp of parsley and chopped chives. Finally, use the juice from at least one Meyer lemon (if small, use two) and then zest one them into the marinade as well. 
Admittedly I should've plated on a different color...whoops.
Place your cleaned shrimp (I left the tails on, mainly for presentation sake) in a shallow pyrex dish and cover with the marinade. Marinate the shrimp at room temperature - though covered with plastic wrap - for about 30 minutes and pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is heated, put the shrimp in and bake for 10 minutes or less...keep an eye out for the shrimp to change pink...and then remove. Plate the shrimp over the starch (rice or orzo are best - though a fettuccine wouldn't be out of the question) and then pour on the extra sauce, sprinkle with some grated Parmesan and some extra chopped chives.
Mine was served over a bed of whole wheat orzo, spinach salad on the side. 

 - Melissa

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A La Lucia is the only Italian restaurat in (Old Town) Alexandria, VA.

     In an attempt to get back into the blogging spirit, I decided to do another restaurant review for the local followers.  I have to warn you, this restaurant is so good that I ate lunch there on Friday and took my wife there for dinner on Saturday night.  I am serious when I say that this is the only Italian restaurant you should eat at in the (Old Town) Alexandria, VA area. 

     I will begin with the best lunch I have had in ages.  You can get lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.  They offer an amazing pre-fixe menu that consists of an appetizer, entree and dessert for $19.95.  For my appetizer, I had a caprese salad with wedges of fresh mozzarella cheese with juicy tomatoes, fresh basil and a wonderful drizzle of olive oil.  For the main course, I opted to have the home-made veal raviolini.  To say that these mini bites of tender veal were anything less that spectacular would be a critical oversight on my part.  The pasta was cooked to perfection and I wish I could remember the sauce it came with because it was decadent.  For my dessert I decided to truly test the Italian roots of the restaurant and chose the pistachio gelato.  The only thing I can say is that I have only had better gelato in "Italy," via Disney World.  I cannot begin to describe to you how breathtaking this dessert was.  Creamy, icy, pistachio deliciousness with every bite and it was not a small serving.  Now, I was on a business lunch so I could not partake in the secret I am about to share with you.  For lunch, if you decide you do not want the gelato, home made canollis or the divine chocolate mousse, you can forfeit your dessert for a glass of wine.  You read that correctly, a glass of wine fro lunch in lieu of dessert!

     Onto dinner.  Dinner is served from 5:00 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Sunday.  Again, they offer an amazing pre-fixe menu that consists of an appetizer, entree and dessert.  Dinner is a little more expensive, obviously, but is still only $32.95.  Danielle and I decided to use Open Table to make our reservations, to get the points, and it turns out we made a great decision.  There was not a single open table in the entire restaurant and there was quite a line of people waiting to get in as well.  We walked in, sat down and began the arduous task of deciding what to eat.  I started off with a double cream version of mozzarella that they make at the restaurant.  Only one word can describe how amazing this cheese was.  Yummy.  The main course was a dazzling mix of herbs, pasta and cream sauce and I went back to the pistachio gelato for dessert.  When something is that good, you don't want to stray away from it! 

     Bottom line, if you are anywhere near the Old Town Alexandria area this is the only place you should go to eat Italian food.  I have been extremely disappointed in most of the "Italian" restaurants in the area but this one is the exception.  I can honestly say that this restaurant is comparable to ones I have eaten at in NYC.  

Here is their website http://www.alalucia.com enjoy!       


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