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Baccala alla Vicentina - Meatballs&Milkshakes

This year’s Feast of the Seven Fishes is probably going to be reduced by a couple courses to maybe 5 or even just 3. The important part of the Feast is that it’s an odd number of courses. The most traditional of my courses is the baccala alla vicentina, which is one of my favorites. After a long soak in water, the rock-hard dried cod is magically transformed back into fish and then gets cooked with potatoes and blended into an amazing spread. It’s not pretty while it’s cooking and the whole process is pretty smelly, but it turns into an amazing dish.

Bay Scallop Crudo with Tangerine - Meatballs&Milkshakes

Next up, bay scallop crudo with tangerine and sea salt and a bowl of shrimp bisque. The sweet bay scallops are slurped down with a tangerine juice reduction and some fruity extra virgin olive oil with a sprinkle of sea salt over the top. The bisque gets it’s flavor from sherry or marsala and if possible, homemade shrimp or seafood stock.

Spicy Crab Pasta - Meatballs&Milkshakes

I will most likely round out my Feast of the Seven (or Five) Fishes with some baked clams and a spicy crab pasta that has become a favorite. I’m hoping to get some really delicious dungeness or some other special crab to really take this one over the top for the holidays. Maybe I’ll even experiment with some lobster. Happy holidays!

For more Feast of the Seven Fishes ideas, check out last year’s menu.

And just to let you know, I’ve started a new Facebook page for Meatballs&Milkshakes, so you can follow the blog there! “Like” Meatballs&Milkshakes to keep up to date with recipes in your feed!

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Sometimes I realize the fridge is empty but the store is so far away….those are the times I look to the pantry to figure out what I can piece together. I usually have a can of Italian tuna, which is a great way to get some protein into what would normally just be starch-based. Add some Sicilian staples like pine nuts and currants along with some onion and garlic from fridge scraps, and a meal takes shape. This off-the-cuff meal ended up being a favorite for the week!

Sicilian Pantry Pasta

1/2 box linguine or other long pasta

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 onion, chopped

2 anchovies

1/4 cup currants soaked in a couple tablespoons of sherry or wine

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino

1 can Italian tuna, drained

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon parsley, chopped

Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water a minute short of package instructions.

Meanwhile,  saute the onion, red pepper flakes, and anchovies in a couple tablespoons of olive oil, until the onion softens. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the tuna, pine nuts, and currants. Add the pasta and a little of the pasta cooking water.

In another pan, toast the breadcrumbs in a tablespoon of olive oil until they start to turn a little brown. Add most of the grated cheese and toss to combine. Pour the toasted breadcrumbs over the pasta and combine. Serve immediately with the rest of the grated cheese and parsley sprinkled on top. Optional, drizzle a little extra olive oil over the top to finish it.

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Mexican food always means a party. There’s a time and place for (Italian) comfort food when I’m looking for a pick-me-up, and then there’s time for fish tacos and margaritas. I love these because they’re not so heavy, and I can make them quickly and concentrate on spending time with friends. Plus, when margaritas are involved, it’s best not to wait too long to eat….

Fish Tacos

2 fillets of white, firm fish, like tilapia

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

4-6 tortillas, warmed in a pan or oven for a few minutes

1-2 cups shredded napa cabbage

3 tablespoons cider vinegar or sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

2 limes, juiced

1 poblano pepper, broiled quickly to blister the skin (put in paper bag to help remove the skin)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, roasted under the same broiler until the skins start to burst

1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce

1 garlic clove, roasted with the tomatoes

cilantro or parsley

For the hot sauce, combine the pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and hot sauce in a blender with some salt and pepper to taste. Add half the lime juice and a handful of cilantro or parsley and blend again.

For the cabbage slaw, combine the cabbage, vinegar, half the lime juice and salt and pepper. This is best done ahead of time because it gives the flavors a chance to combine, but it will still be good if you make it at the same time.

Combine the flour, paprika, chili powder and some salt in a plate. Dredge the fish lightly and put directly into a couple tablespoons of oil in a pan. Allow it to brown on one side and then flip. I like to use non-stick for fish but if it sticks a little, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll be breaking up the fillets anyway.

Layer some fish, hot sauce and cabbage slaw onto a tortilla. Serve with some beans and rice and maybe a couple wedges of lime for squeezing at the table.

For my rice, I like to cook it according to package instructions but use half the amount of water and replace the rest with chicken stock. I add a bay leaf or two and a pinch of saffron. Sometimes I add a little ground cumin too. Not too much to make it really strong, just a gentle flavor.

For my beans, I generally use canned because they’re so handy, but I rinse them REALLY well. You don’t want any of that viscose liquid they come in, it’s full of sodium and it tastes weird. I saute up some bacon with some brown sugar and then toss in the beans. Add some water if it’s too thick and allow it cook together for 10 minutes.

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I’m a huge fan of crab in any form, but crab cakes are always classic. I came across this method for making mini ones and I wanted to try it out. I have to say, it’s cute for a party and a much easier way to do bite-size crab cakes but I think next time I’ll be making them the usual way– in a pan. The texture on the top and bottom comes out a little differently, and part of what I like most about crab cakes is the crunchy outer layer. Either way though, these were still pretty delicious. Stay tuned for some more crab recipes, we still have some in the fridge!

Baked Mini Crab Cakes

1/2 pound picked crab meat

1 cup panko

1 cup parmesan

2 tablespoons mayo or yogurt

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1 egg

1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce

1 tablespoon Sriracha or other hot sauce

1/2 onion, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon thyme

2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt and pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until it gets translucent and softened. Add the thyme and remove from the heat. Allow to cool and remove to a bowl.

Add the egg, crab, Worchestershire, Sriracha, parsley, paprika, mayo, heavy cream, and half the parmesan and panko. Stir together lightly and don’t over mix. In a small bowl, combine the remaining parmesan and panko and drizzle it with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.

Spray a mini muffin tin with oil and spoon a little of the panko mixture into each cup. Spoon in some of the crab mixture and top with a little more of the panko. Press down a bit with your hand. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they start to brown on top. Let cool for a few minutes in the pan and then gently remove with a fork.

I like to serve with some mango relish. I chop up some mango and mix with my own homemade salsa (shallot, chipotle in adobo, roasted garlic, olive oil, lime juice blended up).

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My burgers are always a big hit and I keep my dad’s secret guarded very closely. I’m not sure if I will post that recipe at some point, but for now, it’s a secret. Sorry!

For now, you’ll have to try these delicious lamb burgers. I like lamb because it’s rather lean and flavorful with a gamey quality that I really like. It tends to get pretty dry if you overcook, so keep them closer to rare and they’ll stay nice and moist. Perfect for your next gathering, whether it’s basketball, oscars, or bbq!

Lamb Burgers

1 pound ground lamb

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons chopped mint

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 shallot, minced

1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

4 burger buns or 8 slider buns

1/4 cup plain yogurt

Combine the lamb, garlic, shallot, salt, Worchestershire, tomato paste, and half the mint together in a bowl. Mix together with a fork, being careful not to over mix the meat. Form into burgers or sliders and grill on a grill pan or grill for 3 minutes on the first side and then an additional minute on the second side. You want to start seeing the juices coming to the surface and the bottom browning before you flip. You know they’re done to medium rare when they are still somewhat soft to the touch like pushing where your thumb meets your palm.

Combine the rest of the mint and the parsley with the yogurt. Spoon onto the burger and enjoy!

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After more than a week of eating healthy, this soup tasted so great with just a little ground lamb. I’ve started craving carbs, but not meat– until I started smelling this meat cooking. Because it had been a while, the soup was even more satisfying. I don’t cook a lot with all these spices, so it was nice to have an excuse to try them out. They make it a warm and hearty soup, almost a stew. It definitely inspired me to cook more Moroccan food, especially with some Israeli couscous once I’m back on carbs! If you don’t like cilantro, you could definitely substitute parsley.

Moroccan Lamb Soup

1/2 pound ground lamb

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 large onion, chopped

3-4 slices ginger

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup French lentils

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1 can chickpeas, drained well

5 cups water

1 lemon, zested and juiced

Roast the cherry tomatoes at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Meanwhile, start browning the meat in a large pot or dutch oven. Once browned, stir in the cinnamon stick, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Add the onion and ginger and stir through. Add in the tomato paste and season with salt. Add the lentils and the cilantro. Add the water and deglaze the pan by scraping up all the bits on the bottom. Cook for 20 minutes. Add the roasted tomatoes and chickpeas and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and zest and season to taste. Serve with some cilantro on top if you wish.

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These were so good, that they might be the favorite meatballs around the apartment. In the New Year, we’re trying to be a little more healthy, and so….no red meat for a while…or at least as long as we can hold out. The cinnamon gives them a little unusual flavor that’s hard to place but so wonderful in the marinara sauce. I used some homemade sauce that I had leftover in the fridge, but you could use your favorite bottled sauce if you don’t have any.

Tuna Meatballs

1 can Italian tuna in olive oil, oil drained out

1/4 cup dried currants

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 egg

1/4 cup grated parmesan

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon orange juice

Marinara sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Roll into meatballs and add to hot pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. They are very delicate, so don’t turn them more than necessary. Once they are browned on all sides, add marinara sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes.

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