Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sesame spiced Turkey Meatballs with Bean and Quinoa Salad


2014-03-11 20.57.11

This summer, I visited my friend in New York and made it very clear that I HAD to find the best falafel truck in the city. It was really the most unique food I had ever tried at age 8 when I went to visit my cousins one year for Thanksgiving. Ever since then, I’ve had a special place in my heart for gyros, lamb shwarma, and yummy meatballs like these that would fit snugly in a those aluminum-wrapped pita pockets. No, they’re not fancy, but seriously I find turkey meatballs to be some of the most flavorful, moist, and easy meats to cook. While I was making these, I started to dream of a falafel-esque sesame spiced meatball sub with a tahini sauce instead of marinara. Plans to come…

So these are adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and I’ve made them a bit less spicy than the recipe calls for. Deb suggests serving these over a smashed chickpea salad, but I really love white beans, so I made a quinoa bean salad. Somehow most of the food I make makes you want to curl up on the couch and snuggle. I think that’s why I’m trying to eat more quinoa. It screams pop culture, civilization, getting on with my healthy self. Basically it helps me get off the couch 🙂 Last week I made another version that came out of Mardi Gras angst: black eyed pea, okra, cajun seasoning quinoa salad. Try it!

With this meatball recipe comes a chance to use the cast iron skillet! Which just happens to be another chance for me to build some arm muscle (transporting a skillet from stove to oven takes MUCH more effort than I thought). I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why people love pie so much and it kind of makes me think of meatballs too. Go with me for a second. I really think that part of the obsession with pie is its perfect circle shape. Putting something in the oven and it coming out the exact same shape as when it goes in is weirdly comforting. Maybe it’s the blanket of dough on the top that snuggles in the filling that’s so comforting? Anyways I think the same is for meatballs. Some people are kind of weirded out by ground meat, but then others of us love the rich, moist, decadence of a good meatball. Maybe it’s breaking into a perfectly round piece of goodness. Well, now that my understanding of basic shapes is out there, on to the recipe!!!

2014-03-11 20.11.45

Sesame-spiced Meatballs – adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 lb ground turkey – I like to use 93% lean, but you can use 99% if you like

2/3 cup French breadcrumbs (Take some leftover crusty French bread and turn it into crumbs in your food processor)

1/4 cup water

1 tsp table salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp paprika

pinch of cayenne (or more depending on your taste)

2 TBS sesame seeds, toasted


Quinoa- Bean Salad ingredients – measurements up to your taste buds, cheffy-friends

White quinoa (I used 1/2 cup)

Half a can of white great northern beans, drained and rinsed

diced celery and carrot, sliced red onion

fresh parsley

chopped tomatoes

green olives,

dressing of : dijon + red wine vinegar + olive oil + lemon + honey

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and stretch your arms. After stretching, dig out your cast iron skillet and heave it up to the stove. (Yes I do find the stretching important here, lol). In a large bowl, add all of the meatball ingredients and mix together lightly with a fork, your hands, or a spoon. I say lightly here because you want the meatball ingredients to be evenly spread through out, but with turkey I never like to overmix.


2. Once the mix looks evenly incorporated, get a plate ready for your meatballs. Take a clump of the mix and start to cup your hands into the shape of a meatball. That’s how I like to start to form the ball, then roll it gently between your hands to make the ball compacy. These should be about the size of golfballs. Place them on the plate, waiting to jump into the skillet!

2014-03-11 20.28.33

3. After prepping the meatballs, heat the skillet to about medium-high and pour a thin layer of olive oil on the pan. Add the meatballs carefully (don’t break them!) and give each enough space to brown. I have a 12 inch skillet and managed to fill all of them in one batch, but if they need more room in your skillet, make a few batches.

2014-03-11 20.31.36

4. While you’re testing your patience waiting for these to brown, mix up your salad. In your bowl, start with some spoonfuls of quinoa, then add your toppings, I like equal parts of everything, but I get it if you wanna skip the veggies and just have a simple quinoa bed for the meatballs. In a small glass, mix together dijon, honey, vinegar, and lemon juice. Slowly whisk in olive oil to form a dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Dress your salad and toss with some fresh sprigs of parsley!

5. After about 3-4 minutes of browning, start to rotate your meatballs to get them browning on all sides. Give the other side another 3 minutes or so to brown. Once the outsides are browned and a lil crispy, turn off the heat and transfer the skillet to the oven using a thick potholder. Muscle-building, here.

2014-03-11 20.56.40

6. Cook the meatballs in the oven for between 10-15 minutes, until they reach 160 degrees F. You can test this by sticking a meat thermometer in one of the meatballs. Mine took about 11 minutes. Take out of the oven and serve over your yummy quinoa salad!

2014-03-11 20.57.31 HDR (1)

2014-03-11 20.57.27 HDR
































Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo – Mardi Gras Feasting


2014-03-04 19.51.12 HDR

Remember the king cake from last Mardi Gras? Due to a bit of laziness and a lack of cream cheese, I decided to go a different way with Mardi Gras this year. I decided to try my hand at a traditional gumbo recipe and impose a significant amount of frostbite on my hands trying to peel 2 pounds of semi-frozen shrimp. Note to self: thaw for a few HOURS, not a few MINUTES!

I LOVE having people over for dinner. This is so early-20s of me, but I was getting really excited the other day for beginning to form a collection of my own go-to entertaining recipes that I can trust on for each season. I’ve starting writing down my versions of recipes on notepads that I’ve stored on a cloud of dreams for my future cookbook. Here’s a GREAT one if you’ve got some time.

There’s a lot of talk about the essential roux for gumbo on the internet. If you’re like me, and you’re absolutely not going to buy another one-time-use spice for one darn recipe, you’re not going to make a gumbo requiring file powder. Although now that I’m reading its description, I’m sad I didn’t get to use the word “sassafras” in a sentence :(.  After throwing out the recipes with file powder. I used one from America’s Test Kitchen The New Best Recipe book.  And I paid a LOT of attention to roux-making.

You cook the flour and oil until you absolutely can’t stand to think anyone would want to eat something so brown that isn’t chocolate. Some people suggest baking the flour and oil for 2 hours to let it form a roux on its own. I followed the Cook’s Illustrated example and heated the oil first so the flour doesn’t burn as if you were to start heating them at the same time. I gently stirred them together for about 20 minutes and really had no smoking, burned bits, or clumps. As long as you are conscious of this fragile mixture, I honestly believe you can do it too. Stir constantly, heat gently, and watch carefully.

And then, you cook a whole bunch of yummy veggies, stock, shrimp, and sausage and everything comes together QUITE smoothly.

Make your seafood stock in advance, please. It’s a mess. I was going to show you a picture, but I’m positive you’re not interested in my picture of shrimp shells.

Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo, adapted from The New Best Recipe ( I doubled it for a dinner party)

1 1/2 lbs frozen shrimp with shell on

4 1/2 cups water

1 cup bottled clam juice

3 1/2 cups ice water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 medium onions, chopped fine

1 medium red bell pepper, chopped fine with all the seeds and ribs removed

1 medium celery rib, chopped fine

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 large bay leaves

1/2 lb andouille sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds on a bias

1/2 lb turkey kielbasa, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds on a bias

1 big ole handful of fresh parsley leaves chopped fine

4 scallions, both white and green parts, sliced thin

8 oz. frozen okra

White rice to serve

1. Thaw your shrimp in a large colander. You can speed up this process by rinsing the shrimp with colder water. I say colder because if its too cold it might just make more ice on the shrimp but if it’s too warm it will cook them. Peel the shrimp over a large pot with a top with the 4 1/2 cups water in it and drop the shells into the pot. Boil the water and watch for the bubbles that will run up over the top! Once boiling, reduce heat so that only little bubbles are forming (a simmer) and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid through a sieve/colander into a bowl with the ice water and claim juice and stir mixture (throw the shells away). If you’re making this in advance, let cool and store in the refrigerator in a tupperware. Then store the raw shrimp in a plastic gallon bag in the refrigerator as well until the next day.

2. In a cast iron skillet, Dutch oven or wide pan with a thick bottom, heat your oil for 2 minutes. Gradually stir in the flour at a medium heat with a wooden spoon. Like I said, watch carefully and continue to stir until the roux turns a deep coffee ish color but redder (see picture). This takes about 20 minutes.

2014-03-04 09.55.14 HDR


getting darker

2014-03-04 10.01.05

2014-03-04 10.11.07

2014-03-04 10.11.18 HDR

3. In a stockpot or large pot, transfer the roux and add in the onion, okra, bell pepper, celery, garlic, thyme salt and cayenne. Saute until fragrant and all the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.

2014-03-04 09.40.33

2014-03-04 10.19.05 HDR

4. If you made the stock the day before, warm it up to room temperature before you add to the mixture. Once at room temp, slowly add in about half the stock, stirring the mixture constantly. Then add in the rest of the stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and skim foam from the surface (a lot of this is fat). Add in the bay leaves and simmer for about 30 minutes.

2014-03-04 10.35.46

5. In the meantime, make your rice to have ready when the gumbo is done.

6. After the 30 minutes, add in your sausage (I used two kinds just bc I couldn’t decide at the store). Cook for another 30 minutes at a simmer. After that, place the top on top of your pot, turn off the heat and wait for guests to arrive. Take out your raw shrimp from the refrigerator if you made the stock yesterday.

2014-03-04 11.03.13

2014-03-04 11.03.26 HDR

7. Once you’re almost ready to serve, have a friend slice up the scallions and parsley, and heat back up the soup. Once hot, drop in your thawed shrimp and cook for just a few minutes until just pink. Drop in the scallions and parsley and serve over rice!

2014-03-04 19.47.12 HDR

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Simple Chocolate Cake with Strawberries, Whipped Cream, and Chocolate Drizzle


2014-02-27 20.04.04

The ultimate simple dessert. Not every occasion calls for a triple decker German chocolate cake or rich decadent Paula Deen-esque work of sweet buttah. No, today we’re celebrating simplicity. A flick of your magic cooking wand and a swish of the spatula, and bibidi-bobodi-boo, a one layer chocolate cake.

I made this for a special dinner with my cousins and aunt and uncle, and let’s be real, the dessert I brought was a reflection of how I felt at the time. I had buttermilk on hand and could have made the amazing buttermilk skillet cake that you saw a few months ago with the praline topping. But I felt that kind of happiness that required no cherry on top to commemorate a celebration. I wanted to look at vibrant natural colors (enter: sliced strawberries), hang out with my cousin (assembling the cake at the dinner), and feel satisfied not stuffed after the meal (one layer not two layer cake). Made a good choice!

Here we have a half recipe of Ina Garten’s Beatty’s Chocolate Cake topped with my favorite whipped cream concoction, sliced strawberries, and my fave chocolate ganache. I am a total fanatic for chocolate cakes with coffee in them as it always adds richness without too much sweet.

2014-02-27 17.17.13

2014-02-27 17.23.59


Ok so the strategy for simple dinner-at-family’s-house cake goes as follows…start with your simple chocolate cake. Use half of Ina’s, like me, or just make a devil’s food cake from a box and it’ll get all fancy with the toppings! The timing is favorable. You have time to clean up all that chocolate mess, lick the spoon and wait for the cake to come out until you prep the toppings. If I were you, I’d just go ahead and get the ganache out of the way, sometimes it can be messy.

So let’s melt some chocolate drizzle. Chop up 4 oz whatever bar chocolate you’ve got on hand (I had some bittersweet chips and a dark chocolate bar) and place in a heatproof bowl. Meanwhile warm 1/2 cup heavy cream in a sauce pan until bubbles start to form all around the edges (the cream is simmering) and pour half of it over the chopped chocolate. Let the chocolate melt for about 30 seconds then start to stir together. After it’s partly smooth add in the rest of the cream and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool and transfer to a small container.

Is your cake sitting invitingly on your counter now? Time to assemble the rest and get ready to go. Whip up some of your favorite whipped cream and slice up the strawberries. Store each separately in containers. Flip your cake (fingers crossed, seamlessly) onto a plate and cover with aluminum foil. At your friend’s house, store the whipped cream in the fridge and let your cake continue to cool. You don’t want to top the cake with the whipped cream and have it melt! When dessert time rolls around, ask your cousin to help you assemble, topping it with as much whipped cream, strawberries and ganache drizzle as you like. There’s no way to have too much or too little of either. Well, there’s always a way to have too little chocolate.

Can’t wait to try this with raspberries and maybe slivered almonds. It’d also be great to add a little kahlua to the whipped cream or dark rum! Bon appetit, chocolatiers. Tell me how it goes!


2014-02-27 17.28.50 HDR

2014-02-27 19.58.52

2014-02-27 20.00.47

2014-02-27 20.00.58

2014-02-27 20.04.11 HDR

2014-02-27 20.03.33