Wednesday, July 16, 2014


If you like the sultry, exotic spices of North Africa and the Middle East, you'll like this chicken meatball sandwich. No, you'll love this chicken meatball sandwich. It's got flavor boosters in every component, and your kitchen will emit all the aromas of a Moroccan spice tent. 

And please don't let the large ingredient list inhibit you, because you know if I made it- it's not hard, but it sure is delish! And there's not an ingredient in this recipe that you can't easily pick up in your local supermarket. When I'm pressed for time, I make the meatballs on day one, then put the barley salad together the day I'm ready to serve these little darlings.

Saucy Chicken Meatball Pita Sammies with Pearl Barley Salad
Serves 5

5 pita rounds 6" diameter
1 small bag of baby spinach

1 large egg slightly beaten
2 T tomato paste (I use the paste in a tube)
3 T chopped cilantro
1 T fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
1-1/2 slices Italian bread ground in spice mill
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken

1 T olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 T garlic minced
1 lemon zested
1/2 cup kalamata olives chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (I use Chardonnay)
1/4 cup water
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Barley Salad
2 cups cooked pearl barley
1/2 cup chopped canned artichoke hearts
1/2 cup diced feta cheese
1/3 cup raisins plumped in boiling water
1/3 cup Kalamata olives
1/3 cup sliced scallions 1/4"
2 T cilantro chopped

2 lemons juiced
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil

Okay, lets do this with a few pictures.
To make the meatballs:
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. Combine all meatball ingredients except the chicken.

Now add the chicken and combine without working the mixture too much.

Form 15 to 16 1-1/2"meatballs and place on prepared baking pan and cook 30 minutes.

To make the sauce:
While meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. In large saucepan heat oil on low. Saute onion for 5 minutes to soften. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes more. Now add the lemon zest and olives. Cook a few minutes more. Increase heat a bit and add white wine. Cook until wine is almost evaporated and veggies/aromatics do not burn. Stir in water, tomato sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Return to low simmer, cover and wait for meatballs to be ready to take a bath in the sauce. After their 30 minutes in the oven, add the meatballs to the aromatic tomato broth. Lower heat, cover and simmer another 10 minutes. Now doesn't that look yummy?

To make the salad:
Cook barley according to package directions and cool. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and toss.

To make the dressing:
Combine all ingredients in a small jar, shake to combine and pour about half the mixture on the barley salad (save the rest to drizzle on sandwiches).

I like to grill my pita rounds on both sides so they are soft, warm and toasty. Lay a handful of baby spinach leaves on the bottom of each pita round.

To each pita round, top with 3 meatballs and an extra helping of the exotic tomato sauce. Add the barley salad, a little more lemon dressing and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs. Roll up and enjoy your meal in the casbah.

I have also enjoyed this sandwich with a Roasted Garlic, Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Tzatziki Sauce. Here's a quick recipe for that:

2 cups Greek yogurt (I never have to drain this if it's Greek yogurt, but if you use regular, drain to let the liquid escape)
1 English cucumber peeled, seeded and chopped or grated
1 T red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon squeezed
1 T olive oil
1 clove roasted garlic
pinch of black pepper

Mix all ingredients together, chill, then top your meatball pitas with it. Very yummy.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

My Magic Pan

Is there anybody besides me old enough to remember the restaurant "The Magic Pan"? It was my go-to place for lunch in the 80's. You could get crepes for lunch, dinner or dessert and salads that were fresh and innovative at the time. I got hooked on their wilted spinch and bacon salad and was so in the mood for that today. But I made it into a sandwich. I'm a hungry girl these days and I'm happy to say, "It worked!!" Here's the recipe:

Wilted Spinach and Bacon Salad Sammies
Serves 6

6 Hoagie rolls or small French bauguettes
6 eggs hard boiled and sliced
6 slices bacon (I used thick cut) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound baby spinach
1/2 onion diced
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pinch of salt
3 T cider vinegar
Mayo (optional)

Boil eggs, cool in ice bath and set aside. In large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until cooked (about 10 minutes). Drain on paper towel lined plate.

Pour bacon fat into a separate bowl and measure out 5 tablespoons of bacon fat back into your skillet. Add onion and cook over medium heat until softened (about 3 minutes). Now add your sugar and garlic and cook another 1/2 minute. Now add the vinegar, stir into bacon fat/onion mixture and remove from heat. Loosen brown bits with spoon and pour dressing over spinach, add bacon and toss until spinach is slightly wilted.

Time to make the sandwiches. To pan that bacon was sauteed in, grill the inside of your rolls, one or two at a time.

Slather a little mayo on top and bottom halves of bread and generously place spinach/bacon mixture on the bottom of the bun. Top with sliced egg, and a little salt and pepper.

Yum. I can't think of a better way to start the work week than packing one of these tasty sammies for tomorrow's lunch. And that's exactly what I'm going to do!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Peachy Keen Pulled Pork Tortillas

Lillian Russo turned me on to a new taste sensation a few months ago- pork sirloin cooked in salsa. My oh my, is this a nice treat. I use an inexpensive cut of meat, braise it on the stove top and yes my friends, it is delicious! This time I added Lillian's salsa of choice to the braise, which is peach, and thanks to Kevin at Tri Town Liquors, I also discovered a lovely little peach flavored libation (flavor enhancer, you know) to toss in.  So now I have 2 new ingredients to share and both worked like a dream.

Ready to cook? I sure was. Here are the ingredients I used:

Pulled Pork with Grilled Peach Avocado Salad
Serves 5
Inspired by Lillian Russo

1-1/2 pounds pork sirloin
2 T flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 T canola oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 jar (16 oz) Paul Newman Peach Salsa - I used medium heat
1 Serrano chili
1 bottle Smirnoff Ice Peach Bellini Malt Beverage
5 flour tortillas (7-8")

Grilled Peach Avocado Salad

1 peach sliced 1/2 inch
1 avocado  diced 1/2 inch
1 Serrano chili minced
3 scallions chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper
1 T chopped cilantro

Greek yogurt and extra cilantro

Let's get cooking. Pat your pork sirloin dry and dredge in 2 tablespoons of flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Shake off any excess flour and heat oil in a large sauce pan on stovetop on medium. Brown pork on all sides to seal in the juices. Now add the onions, salsa, Smirnoff Peach Bellini and a whole Serrano chili. Bring to boil, cover and lower heat to simmer. For those who are not familiar with cooking with chilis, I must tell you that when they are cooked they become sweet and only slightly spicy. So if you want, you could certainly add another one.

Cook 2 hours and enjoy the aromas as they are wafting through your kitchen. I like to check on this dish every 1/2 hour or so, and turn the meat over, but as I've said before- I'm not sure it's necessary. By the time you get to the 1-1/2 hour mark, you'll find that the meat is done, and pulling itself away. I just give it that extra few minutes to get extra tender. Remove meat from cooking pan and let rest, tented with aluminum foil. Reduce liquid on stove top uncovered on medium heat to concentrate the flavors, about 10 minutes or so.

Ready for the salad?  While pork is resting, take out your stove top grill pan and grill your peach slices on both sides.

My advice to you is grill 2 peaches (I didn't do that)- you're going to want to nibble while you're putting the salad together and there's no better nibblin' than fresh grilled peaches. Dice the peach slices 1 inch, add chopped avocado, minced Serrano chili, chopped scallions, cilantro, a little salt and pepper and dress with lime juice.

I served this lovely dish on warmed tortillas. Pull your pork, toss it in the reduced cooked salsa combo, place on tortillas, add a little bit more sauce, top with the peach/avocado salad and garnish with Greek yogurt and cilanto. So good, and so worth making again and again.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mediterranean Inspired Tuna Hoagies

It's hot today. And going to be hot again tomorrow, so there's no major cooking happening here. But good eating is on the menu. This is basically a pantry/fridge clean out, but boy oh boy was I happy to bite into this protein filled sammie. So easy, and you can put it together in no time. Ready to basically not cook?

Tuna Sammies with a Mediterranean Twist
Serves 2

2 Hoagie rolls toasted on both sides on indoor grill
1 can tuna in water or oil drained
2 scallions chopped
1/4 tsp celery salt
2 hard boiled eggs sliced
2 T mayonnaise
1/4 c Kalamata olives sliced
1/3 cup canned artichoke hearts chopped
1 cup baby spinach
freshly ground pepper

Toast your bread either in the oven or stove top grill. Slather a bit of mayo on the bread so the spinach leaves have a place to rest.

To make the tuna salad, combine the rest of the mayo, celery salt and scallions with the tuna that you've broken up into small pieces. When it's smooth to your liking, add equal amounts to both rolls. Now add the olives, chopped artichoke hearts, and sliced egg. Sprinkle with some black pepper and close up this little gem and dig in. Very satisfying for a sultry night. And if your pantry has more ingredients than mine, please feel free to add some roasted red peppers. And maybe even some fresh tomatoes, feta cheese and cilantro.

This was so good, I packed the second sandwich for lunch tomorrow. I'm on a roll!