Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo. What to feed the Groomsmen Part Two

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Part two of my quest to figure out what to feed the groomsmen, I decided to make grilled skirt steak in addition to the grilled chicken. As I mentioned earlier this week, at Evan’s request I am not making a lot of different foods like dips, salsas or desserts, so the sandwiches need to be the star of the meal. After all, they are the only food offered besides chips and beer.

Because the grilled chicken is marinated in a classic garlic and herb marinade, I decided to use Mojo de Ajo to flavor the grilled skirt steak. This way both the grilled selections have a similar garlic flavor, but in their own unique way.  The grilled chicken has a garlic herb profile with an Italian American flavor and the grilled skirt steak has a Mexican cuisine flavor profile from the simmered garlic, chilies and Mexican oregano. Both grilled foods are different, but they complement each other because they share similar ingredients and the same cooking method.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

My hope is the grilled skirt steak sandwich with mojo de ajo will give the groomsmen a taste of something unexpected as well as delicious. Mojo de Ajo has a prominent garlic flavor but it is not strong and lingering. I feel like I contradicted myself by saying it is prominent but not strong, yet it is true. By not strong I mean the garlic behaves and like a polite guest knows when it is time to home. This is not the type of garlic that you taste all night long when your want to go to sleep. Roasted garlic is the most significant flavor, but because of the orange juice, tomatoes and arbol chilies it comes across sweeter with a kick. Grilled skirt steak in mojo de ajo is both has a familiar taste yet, it is new at the same time.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Grilled Skirt Steak

Skirt steak takes no time to grill, either on an outdoor grill or on the stove in a grill pan. My skirt steak finished cooking in 4-5 minutes on a grill pan for medium rare. However, they were thin pieces of meat. Depending on the thickness of your skirt steak and how much you want your steak to cook, it could take a minute less or a couple of minutes longer. If you have never cooked skirt steak before, start with the recommended time in the recipe and test it to see how done it is. Skirt steak tastes better when it is rare to medium rare and because my pieces were very thin, probably should cook them for less time. Additionally, it is important to rest the steaks for 10 minutes before you slice them. This way the juices will soak into your steak and not flow all over your cutting board.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Mix it up

Now, I am using grilled skirt steak to make sandwiches, but this steak makes an easy weeknight dinner as well. Last night we ate it for dinner with a green salad and devoured it. We liked it so much, we could not stop picking at it. Both of us repeatedly commented, “I’ll just have one more sliver please.” Eventually, we had to remove the grilled skirt steak from the table before we ate the whole thing.

Grilled skirt steak with mojo de ajo makes the perfect steak taco. Actually this is how I first became acquainted with the garlic sauce in the cookbook Taco.

Make fajitas with grilled skirt steak with mojo de ajo and poblano rajas, which is sautéed strips of poblano chilies and white onions. Get the recipe from my poblano chili cream sauce. This creamy poblano sauce will also taste great with grilled skirt steak.

Make a grilled skirt steak salad with arugula, avocado, oranges and baby radishes. Drizzle some of the mojo de ajo on the steak and dress with a citrus vinaigrette. My favorite is a combination of orange juice and lemon juice with a little honey, a touch of Dijon mustard, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and finished with fresh herbs like mint or basil..

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

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Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo

The mojo de ajo gives grilled skirt steaks a whole new flavor. It is perfect for a steak dinner with a green salad, or beef tacos, or make into steak sandwiches.

Add some mojo de ajo in the mayonnaise for your sandwiches for extra flavor. 

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American, Mexican
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Resting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 11 minutes
Servings 3 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place the skirt steak in a baking dish just large enough to hold the skirt steak in an even layer. Sprinkle the skirt steak with Kosher Salt on both sides, about ½ teaspoon total, possibly a pinch more.

  2. Separate the oil from the solids of the Mojo de Ajo and pour about 1/3 cup over the skirt steak. Turn the steaks over and rub them with the oil to get and even coating. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the skirt steaks rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

  3. Prepare your grill. Oil the grill once the coals are in place. 

  4. Place the skirts steaks on a 45° angle over the grill and sear for 2 minutes. Rotate the steaks towards the opposite 45° angle and grill for one minute. Turn the skirt steaks over and repeat on the other side. If you have a thicker piece of skirt steak try 4 minutes  side. The steaks could be done anywhere from 5-8 minutes depending on how thick they are. 

  5. Remove the skirt steaks from the grill and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.
  6. Slice across the grain in thin slices and serve garnished with the minced garlic and tomatoes from the Mojo de Ajo.
Grilled Skirt Steak with Mojo de Ajo recipe. A sublime recipe for grilled skirt steak with sweet garlic flavor from Mojo de Ajo, a citrus garlic olive oil from Veracruz.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

What to Feed the Groomsmen? Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

I have the pleasure of providing lunch for my son Evan, and his 8 groomsmen this weekend. Visualizing the amount of food required for a group of hungry men brought me back to Evan’s high school and college days when I had to feed Evan and his friends after a swim meet. Swimmers require a lot of calories on any given day, and the amount of food they eat is phenomenal. Fortunately, the groomsmen do not have the same appetite as Evan’s teammates had. Yet in the back of my mind the question remained, what to feed the groomsmen? I went around and around about what food to order and finally came up with the idea of doing it myself and make sandwiches with grilled chicken and grilled flank steak.

Of course, it would be easier to order sandwiches from the venue, but the cost for sandwiches was equivalent to a 5 course meal. Additionally, the wedding venue is a resort in a rural area and there is no other place nearby to order food. Making the lunch myself, is the next best option. Fortunately, the venue is just over an hour away from home and I will have a full kitchen in my suite. These perks allow me to feel confident that I can cook everything at home and keep the food fresh once I am at the resort.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

Lunch Menu

Even though it may seem like I am feeding an army, Evan gave me direction to keep the food simple without a lot of munchies with dips, salsas, and desserts. His concern is if there is a lot of food to munch on after they are all dressed, someone, himself included, will spill or drip on their clean and pressed white shirt or their new suit. I totally get that, and I do not want any spills on my gown either. Even at 28 years old spills happen, and white shirts and fancy new suits are an easy target. So, the menu is simple, make your own sandwiches with grilled chicken or grilled flank steak, lettuce, tomato, avocado and condiments on sourdough bread. On the side, only chips. No dip. No salsas. No dessert.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe,

It may sound sparse, but I know the sandwiches will fill them up and keep the groom and groomsmen satiated well past the wedding ceremony. Everyone appreciates having a nice lunch, but the focus on Saturday afternoon is not the food, it is the bride, the groom and getting ready for their upcoming wedding.

Because the menu is limited, and for a special occasion, I wanted to provide sandwiches made with real meats, not processed cold cuts. Garlic and herb marinated, grilled chicken and steak make delicious sandwiches that are not the usual fare. Especially when they are made on Evan’s favorite bread, Joe’s Dough sourdough batard. Between my husband’s homemade sourdough bread and my marinated and grilled meats, both of us contribute to the meal that gives the groom and groomsmen something special to eat, even though it’s only a sandwich.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

Grilled Chicken

The marinade is a basic one, with lots of garlic and dried herbs, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Chicken, especially boneless, skinless chicken breasts, get mushy if they marinate for too long so I keep that time period for a maximum of four hours. First, I pound the chicken flat then season both sides with Kosher salt. Then make the marinade. Once the chicken is coated in the marinade, it then rests on the counter for 30 minutes. Marinating the chicken at room temperature gives the seasoning a jump-start to penetrate the meat because the chicken absorbs the marinade faster when warm then when cold. After 30 minutes, I place the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate until 30 minutes before it is time to grill the chicken.

I have no qualms about letting my chicken rest on the counter at room temperature for 30 minutes because I have air conditioning and it is not too hot and humid. If you do not have air conditioning and it is hotter than hot, be wise and place the chicken in the refrigerator once it is coated in the marinade.

For even cooking I recommend pounding the chicken breasts with a meat mallet to an even thickness between two pieces of plastic wrap. The plastic wrap protects the chicken meat and prevents the chicken from sticking to the surface of your counter. Also, the chicken breast gets a nice flat surface to build a sandwich on.

Depending on the size of each chicken breast, cut the chicken breast in half on a diagonal. This way you get two pieces of chicken that will easily fit on the sandwich bread. Plus, you get enough for two grilled chicken sandwiches from one breast.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

Mix it up

Making a sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and avocado gives the option of making a grilled chicken salad instead of a sandwich. For people who eat a Paleo, or no carb diet, you can provide your guests with the food they eat without you having to make an extra dish.

Make the grilled chicken with either boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. The photographs in the post, picture the sandwiches and grilled chicken made with grilled chicken thighs.

For vegetarian diets bring some extra cheese like mozzarella, or Munster cheese to make a cheese sandwich with the same vegetables used for the grilled chicken sandwiches. Or, make a salad with cheese. The cheese will also pair well with the grilled chicken and steak.

For vegan diets, grill some tofu or tempeh.

If the weather turns bad, sear the chicken on the stove using a grill pan, then finish the cooking in the oven. Add some chicken stock or white wine to the baking dish with the chicken to keep it moist and make pan juices. This makes a delicious grilled chicken dinner.

Make one of these salads with leftover grilled chicken,  Chicken Salad with Yogurt Avocado Dressing, or Chicken Salad with Orange Saffron Dressing

More sandwich recipes in my post, Easy Picnic Ideas for the Summer.

Make a sandwich with Sherry Marinated Grilled Flank Steak

 

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Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade recipe.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade

An easy grilled chicken recipe with a classic marinade of garlic and dried herbs. This recipe it easily prepared with boneless-skinless chicken breasts or thighs and makes delicious sandwiches.  

Depending on the size of the chicken thighs or breasts you can get 5 to 6 sandwiches. I had a 2 lb (1 k) package of chicken thighs that totaled 5 chicken thighs. A decent serving size per sandwich is 4 oz (125 g) of meat. American chicken breasts are large and range anywhere between 7 - 9 oz (200 - 250 g). 

See Notes for directions for stove top grilling method. 

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword grilled chicken, grilled chicken sandwiches
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Marinating time 3 hours
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 5 sandwiches
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 2 lb (1 K) boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 TB sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • ¾ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup 75 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup chicken stock optional

Instructions

Prepare the Chicken

  1. If you are using chicken breasts, pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet between two pieces of plastic wrap, until you get an even thickness. About a half-inch (1 cm) thick is ideal, but you do not what the chicken beasts to get torn apart. Place in a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken. 

  2. Sprinkle kosher salt over the chicken thighs or breasts on both sides. Let the chicken rest in a baking dish just large enough to hold the chicken on the counter while you prepare the marinade. 

Make the Marinade

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, Dijon mustard, vinegar, onion flakes, oregano, basil, rosemary, and Worcestershire  sauce until thoroughly mixed together. Add the olive oil and mix until well incorporated. 

  2. Pour the marinade over the chicken and turn the thighs or breast over to cover both sides of the chicken. Cover the chicken in the baking dish and rest on the counter for 30 minutes. 
  3. After 30 minutes place the chicken in the refrigerator and marinate for a couple of hours. 
  4. 30 minutes before grilling take the chicken out of the refrigerator and rest on the counter. 

Prepare the Grill

  1. 20 minutes before grilling, prepare the grill according to your specifications. 
  2. When the coals are ready, push them over to one side to create two areas, one for direct heat and the other for indirect heat.  Oil the grill. 

Grill the Chicken

  1. When the grill is hot, place the chicken top side down on the grill over the coals. Grill for two minutes then rotate the chicken 45° and grill for 2 more minutes. Turn the chicken over on the other side and repeat the same grilling process.

  2. Transfer the chicken to the side of the grill with indirect heat and cook until the chicken is done, internal temperature 165°F / 74°C  .

  3. Remove from the grill and rest for 15 minutes. 
  4. Serve as is or make into sandwiches. 

Recipe Notes

To make the chicken with a stove top grill.

Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5.  Position the rack in the middle position. Place a grill pan on the stove and turn the heat to high. Just before the pan starts to smoke, spray the pay with cooking spray. Turn the heat down to medium high and sear the chicken as directed using an outdoor grill, for two minutes then rotate at a 45° angle and grill two minutes more. Turn the chicken over to the other side and grill for two minutes. You may need to cook the chicken in batches.

Transfer the chicken to a baking pan just large enough to hold the chicken. Pour the chicken stock in the pan and bake the chicken until done. The juices from the chicken run clear when pierced with a fork and the internal temperature is 165°F / 74°C. Start checking for doneness after 10 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your chicken and if they are thighs or breasts, it could take from 10-25 minutes.

Grilled Chicken with Garlic Herb Marinade. An easy grilled chicken recipe with a simple marinade. Marinate boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts for delicious sandwiches. Or serve for a grilled chicken dinner.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Almost Classic Nicoise Salad for Two

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

If you ever need something that will take you on a trip to the sunny shores along the Mediterranean Sea, enjoying a Nicoise Salad will do just that. It is a salad full of vibrant foods found in the Mediterranean and in particular the French Rivera. Originating from Nice, France, you can expect a Nicoise Salad made with warm sun ripened vegetables, cured black olives, anchovies, garlic and a garden of herbs reflecting the region’s abundant summer bounty from both land and sea. This is an elegant salad with attitude. It speaks in a loud and briny voice, yet it is never offensive because it’s beauty transports our senses to a sunset along the Côte d’Azur no matter how distant that may be.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two with recipe.

Traditional Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad is one of my favorite salads. Even though I came to it from an adapted version, rather from an authentic source, I believe it is true in its concept. My research revealed what I knew as Nicoise Salad included several ingredients that are not necessarily “traditional”.  Like most regional foods of classic cuisines there usually is a traditional version and the adapted versions built off the one traditional recipe. Yet, for Nicoise Salad, there is debate about what that one recipe consists of. Even in Nice, from restaurant to restaurant and house to house, you get a slightly different version all considered a classic. Despite the fact no one can agree on one “traditional recipe” there is consistent agreement about the essential ingredients that define a Nicoise Salad.

The definitive ingredients are: French green beans, also known as haricot verts, ripe tomatoes, black cured olives, preferably ones from the South of France, anchovies, garlic and fresh herbs, like Fines Herbs. Everything else like potatoes, lettuce, capers, tuna fish, marinated artichoke hearts, and hard-boiled eggs, are open for debate. Two of the add-ins, potatoes and marinated artichoke hearts, are highly debated as definitive ingredients, but lettuce, tuna fish and hard-boiled eggs are questionable, or optional as I like to put it.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

My Nicoise Salad

Because my introduction to Nicoise Salad was in New York and not along the French Rivera, my idea for this classic salad includes many optional ingredients, especially tuna, potatoes and hard-boiled eggs. However, it is just these ingredients that turned my mind around about liking anchovies. Therefore, I do not consider them blasphemous because they compliment an essential ingredient in a Nicoise Salad. It was so long ago when I was first introduced to anchovies I barely remember it, What I do know is if you do not like them, open your mind to try anchovies in a Nicoise Salad and then make up your mind.  Paired with the other salad ingredients, the anchovies strong fishy and briny flavor turn complimentary and not overpowering.

Now I love anchovies, especially with lots of garlic, and add them to many recipes, like Baby Artichoke Hearts with Anchovy Caper Sauce. These artichoke hearts make up a Nicoise Salad in its own right, just add some tomatoes, haricot verts and olives and you are good to go.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two with recipe.

Including tuna, potatoes, anchovies, and hard-boiled eggs in one salad may seem over the top, but it is the salad I know and love. I could omit the tuna to feel more authentic, because tuna is the ingredient you rarely find in a Nicoise Salad in France, or so I’ve heard. Though I do believe tuna adds a nice flavor. Plus, if you use good quality prepared tuna from a jar or can, it makes a big difference.

The tuna I used is TonNino tuna (not an ad) in olive oil. It comes in a jar, is wild caught, dolphin friendly, Yellowfin Tuna. Plus, you can find it at most grocery stores. It had a mild tuna flavor that was very moist without a mineral-metallic aftertaste you get from canned tuna.

I have never made this salad with grilled or fresh tuna because there is enough preparation without it. Also, I believe fresh tuna will dominate the flavor and at $24 plus per pound, should be the featured ingredient. I am sure it tastes delicious, but call it by a different name, like Grilled Tuna Mediterranean Salad.

 

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

How to Compose a Nicoise Salad

Another Nicoise Salad debate is over how to assemble the salad. You’ll find in a lot of restaurants serve Nicoise Salad plated as a composed salad with each ingredient artfully placed on a platter with the dressing drizzled over the top. Another way to present the salad is to mix all the ingredients together, like salads usually are, with the salad dressing evenly coating all the fresh ingredients. Personally, I prefer the all mixed up style because I believe it tastes better that way. It is a perfect jumble of deliciousness compared to the composed salad.

As you can see in my photographs, I opted for the composed salad just because it photographs better. However, by dinner time I had everything all mixed up.

Making a Nicoise Salad becomes a personal choice of ingredients and appearance. The important consideration is always including ripe tomatoes, black cured olives, blanched green beans, anchovies, garlic, and a handful of fresh herbs. No exceptions. Everything else is up to you. Keep in mind Nicoise Salad is vibrant so don’t skimp on the garlic and anchovies. As you make this salad, think of hot summer days, dry heat, warm coastal breezes, salty air, and the best seasonal ingredients found around the Côte d’Azur . You will reward yourself with a trip to the French Rivera even when you are thousands of miles away.

My Classic Nicoise Salad for two, with recipe

Over looking the village of Banyuls Sur Mer, France and the Mediterranean Sea

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My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two and recipe.

Classic Nicoise Salad for Two

Nicoise Salad is composed of the vibrant flavors of Provence in the summer. This is not a delicate salad, but one filled the robust flavors like garlic, anchovies, cured olives, and capers. Fresh French green beans, sun ripened tomatoes, and fresh herbs compliment the vibrant regional flavors and become even more exceptional with a garlicky vinaigrette. Within each region, every chef and home cook have their particular “must have” spin for this classic salad. All the other ingredients are "optional" , and some ingredients cause serious debate. 

Take a bite, close your eyes then transport your senses to the Côte d’Azur on a hot summer day. 

This recipe can easily be doubled and tripled in size to feed 4-8 people. You may need to adjust the dressing somewhat, but that is easily done. 

Nicoise Salad is best eaten as soon as it is prepared. Arrange it decoratively in a bowl or platter or serve mixed together in a delicious jumble of fresh ingredients tossed with the vinaigrette. With all the ingredients at room temperature.

Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine French
Keyword Dinner Salad, Nicoise Salad, Salade Niçoise
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 2 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Nicoise Salad

  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes about 8 oz (247 g) total
  • 1 small onion peeled and cut in half
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed and green germ removed
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 oz (125 g) French Green Beans (Haricots Verts) ends trimmed
  • ½ 4 oz ( 105 g) head of green leafy lettuce like Boston Bibb
  • 1 6.7 oz (190 g) jar tuna in olive oil, such as TonNino
  • ¼ lb. (115 g) grape tomatoes, cut in half use plum tomatoes when they are at the peak of the tomato season
  • ¼ cup (75 ml) black cured olives
  • 1 TB capers brined cured
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • A handful of fresh herbs either Fines Herbs, tarragon, basil, chives, parsley

Anchovy Vinaigrette

  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 1 TB minced shallot a small shallot about 1 oz or .5 g
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ TB red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup 75 ml) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • A couple grinds of fresh black pepper

Instructions

Cook the ingredients:

  1. Fill a sauce pan with water and add the potatoes. Add about 3 tablespoons of Kosher salt to the pot along with a couple of thyme springs, onion and garlic cloves. Bring the water to a boil turn down the heat and gently simmer the potatoes until they are fork tender, about 25 minutes. Depending on the temperature of your simmering water will depend on how long the potatoes need to cook. I check the potatoes every 10 minutes so I do not over cook them.

  2. Once done, remove the potatoes from the sauce pan and set aside to cool.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, fill a bowl with ice and water and set aside.
  4. If adding eggs to your Nicoise Salad, place the eggs in a sauce pan and fill the pan with water. Bring the pot to boil then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the eggs for 7- 8 minutes. Ideally you want medium-boiled eggs when the yolks are set but not cooked all the way through, but not runny. 

    Turn off the heat and add the eggs to the ice bath. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, gently roll the egg back and forth on the counter to crack the egg shell. Peel off the shell, with the egg submerged in the ice bath for an easy peel. Set the eggs aside. If you are making these in advance, store the peeled eggs in a bowl with filled with water in the refrigerator.

  5. Make another ice bath for the green beans.
  6. Fill the pot you used for the potatoes or eggs with fresh water and bring to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, add a large pinch of Kosher salt and the prepared green beans. Once the water returns to a boil, remove the green beans and add them to the ice bath. Once cool, remove the green beans from the ice bath and place on a clean lint free kitchen towel and dry. Set aside.

Make the Vinaigrette

  1. If you haven’t already done so, mince the anchovy fillets, garlic and shallots then add to a small bowl.
  2. Add the Dijon mustard and vinegar and whisk until well incorporated. Continue to whisk and add the extra virgin olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Stop pouring the olive oil periodically to whisk and the salad dressing and make sure the dressing is emulsified. 

Assemble the Salad

  1. In a large mixing bowl, add the lettuce leaves if using and pour about 2 teaspoons of vinaigrette over the leaves. Toss the leaves gently with your hands until the greens are evenly coated with the vinaigrette. Divide the lettuce between two large pasta bowls, or large salad plates. Or, arrange the lettuce on one platter large enough to hold the whole salad.
  2. If you wish peel off the potato skins, or leave them on. Slice the potatoes into bite size pieces. Also, if you want the green beans into smaller pieces, cut them in half.

  3. Arrange the green beans, chopped potatoes, chopped tomatoes, tuna fish, anchovy fillets, olives and capers over the lettuce. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette, making sure every add-in gets a coating of the salad dressing, especially the potatoes. Cut the eggs into quarter wedges or in half and arrange them on the salad.
  4. Serve immediately at room temperature.

Recipe Notes

If you choose not to add in lettuce, double the amount of fresh green beans to make up for the loss of a green vegetable. You may also want more tomatoes. Also, cut up the green bean into bite size pieces for ease and convenience. 

When tomatoes are in season and perfectly sweet and ripe, substitute the cherry tomatoes with plum tomatoes or other sweet flavored tomatoes. Cut them up into generous bite size pieces. 

My Classic Nicoise Salad for Two. Nocoise Salad is a classic salad from the French Rivera consisting of French green beans, tomatoes, anchovies and black cured olives. My recipe adds leafy greens, potatoes, capers, tuna fish and cooked eggs, dressed in an anchovy vinaigrette. It is a robust salad exemplifying the seasonal ingredients of the summer.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Spring Spinach Frittata with Ricotta

Spring spinach frittata with ricotta and recipe

Are you a sweet or savory breakfast person? If you are like me, someone who finds it difficult to choose between the two, frittatas are a wonderful choice and a healthy(ish) alternative to quiche. Because frittatas lack an all butter pastry crust, heavy cream and extra cheese, they are not as rich as quiche, Plus they are much easier to make. What this means is, you can serve up a savory frittata as a main course and include all the pastries or coffee cake you crave. Sweet and savory satisfaction without the guilt, (kind-of). I created this spinach frittata with the dual purpose of making something elegant and savory to serve for breakfast or brunch that also leaves room for something sweet, like The Best Damn Lemon Cake or Apple Muffin with Lemon Glaze.

Ricotta and Spinach Frittata and recipe.

Spinach Frittata Inspiration

My spinach frittata recipe combines two ideas from my favorite egg dishes. The first idea is from Deborah Madison’s  cookbook, In My Kitchen.  She adds saffron to her Swiss Chard Flan recipe, giving the custard an exotic floral nuance that I love. Saffron compliments custards and leafy green vegetables nicely, so I decided to use it instead of freshly grated nutmeg for some extra elegance in the frittata. I love saffron and don’t mind spending the extra money to buy it. However, if you rather not use saffron, add some freshly grated nutmeg directly into the egg mixture. Fresh basil or mint provides a brighter and fresher tasting substitution for saffron, and it pairs very nicely with the spinach frittata.

The second idea is the addition of fresh ricotta, whipped smooth and spooned on top of the spinach frittata. The first time I tasted a ricotta topped frittata is when I made Joshua McFadden’s Red Pepper, Potato, Prosciutto Frittata with Ricotta from his cookbook, Six Seasons. The ricotta transformed an ordinary western omelet into a very special occasion. The ricotta gets soft and warm baked with the frittata and you want every bite filled with this light creaminess. I totally got hooked on ricotta topped frittatas and now want to add ricotta cheese to just about everything.

It pays to buy the freshly made ricotta cheese, there is a big difference in taste. Usually you can find good quality ricotta near the deli department at your grocery. Or make a small batch of ricotta cheese. It takes a lot less time than you think and tastes like real milk.

Julienne Leeks

Making a frittata is fairly straight forward and quick. The only challenging part in this recipe is to julienne the leeks. For a change I decided to julienne slice the white and light green parts of the leek instead of cutting them into circles or half-moons.  It doesn’t really matter how they are prepared as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and cooked till soft and translucent. The julienned leek disappears into the spinach and eggs but adds lovely sweet onion background flavor.

To julienne the leeks, cut the leek in half lengthwise then clean between the layers. Then cut across the leek dividing it into chunks the size of your desired length, mine where about an inch and a half (3.5 cm). Then slice the portioned leeks, lengthwise in very thin strips, mine were about 1/16-1/8 of an inch (about 2-3 mm).  Because you won’t see the leeks you do not have to worry about being precise like you would for julienned carrots in a vegetable sauté, so don’t fret about it.

Check out this video for a live example of how to julienne leeks. In this video he discards the root end of the leek. I do not discard it and julienne cut the root as best I can.

Spinach Frittata

Coming up with a name for this spinach frittata was challenging. With all the special ingredients, it could easily have a name that takes longer to say then it does to cook. Yet the mood of this frittata is all about spring and representing new life and the warming of the earth and air. Fresh farm eggs give the vegetables its foundation with a salty bite of Romano cheese. Young spring spinach and leeks provide a sense of newness to the frittata which in turn is gets grounded from the floral but earthy notes from the stamens of spring crocuses, otherwise known as saffron. Warm, creamy fresh ricotta tie all the flavors together for a sunny “Good morning” greeting. All that goodness is invigorating but not filling leaving plenty of room for pastries or dessert.

Frittatas are delicious for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light supper. For a spectacular Mother’s Day brunch (or any brunch), serve the spinach frittata with your favorite sides like sausage, bacon, green salad, fruit salad and your favorite pastries.

Ricotta Spinach Frittata with recipe.

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Spring spinach frittata with ricotta and recipe

Ricotta Spinach Frittata

An elegant frittata recipe for the times when you want a special breakfast or brunch that is also easy to make. It is a lighter and healthier substitute for quiche.  

Course Breakfast, Brunch, Light Supper, Lunch, Vegetarian
Cuisine Italian American
Keyword Frittata, Spinach Frittata
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 pinch of saffron 1 TB boiling water
  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup 24 g finely grated real Romano cheese
  • Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1 leek about 6 oz (187 g) Pale green and white parts only
  • 5 oz 142 g spinach cleaned, and stems removed
  • ½ cup 117 g real ricotta cheese

Instructions

Prepare your ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.

  2. Place a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and add 1 TB of just shy of boiling water to the saffron. Set aside and let the saffron steep.

  3. In a medium size bowl, mix the eggs together with a fork until there are no egg whites visible in the mix. Add the Romano cheese and mix again until combined. Set aside.

  4. Thoroughly clean and julienne slice the white and pale green parts of the leek, about an inch and a half in length and about 1/16 of an inch wide. See blog post for a video demonstration. 

  5. In a small bowl, whip the ricotta with a pinch of Kosher salt and a few grounds of black pepper until smooth. A fork works nicely for this job. Set aside. 

  6. Place an 8-inch (20cm) skillet, preferably a non-stick skillet with an oven-proof handle, on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the olive oil and heat up. Add the sliced leeks and turn down the heat to medium then sauté until soft, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the prepared spinach, in batches, and cook down until completely wilted and soft, about 5 minutes. 

  7. Meanwhile, pour the saffron and water to the eggs, making sure you get every last drop and all saffron threads, and whisk together with a fork.

Make the Frittata

  1. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the spinach and leeks. Tilt the pan to make sure the egg mixture is evenly distributed across the whole skillet. Turn the heat to medium and let the eggs cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes.

  2. Run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen the eggs. Pull the eggs toward the center with the spatula creating pockets for uncooked runny eggs to fill up. Repeat this step going around the circumference of the frittata. Continue to gently cook the frittata until there is a thin liquid layer on top of the frittata. 

  3. Drop spoonfuls of whipped ricotta cheese around the frittata, about 6-8 spoonfuls. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until it is solid all the way through, about 6 minutes. You may need to place the frittata under the broiler to brown the top. It is not necessary, only if you want browning on the top. If you do, watch the frittata carefully because it should only take a few minutes.  

  4. Remove from the oven and run the frittata around the edge of the skillet, then slide the frittata  on to a serving plate. 

  5. Frittata is best eaten warm the same day it is made. 

< div style =”display:none;”>Ricotta Spinach Frittata. Spring spinach frittata recipe with leeks, saffron and ricotta. An elegant frittata recipe and a great healthy substitute for quiche. Perfect for any meal of the day.,

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas

Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas, recipe.

I find it amazing that I can talk about my history and memories not just in a couple of decades, but in several decades. Over a half century to be exact. That sounds old to me, but I don’t feel that old. It is a momentous feeling to think about a friendship that is over 50 years old or remember an experience that happened 30 years ago. Even my food memories hold a place in my archives situated between remembrances of day-to-day life and momentous occasions. One such food memory that stands out is the first time I ate beef empanadas over 30 years ago.

It couldn’t be any clearer than if it happened yesterday. The sweet and savory flavors of the beef filling warmed my heart and surprised me. At the time I was pregnant with my first child, so this might anchor my taste memory. The sweet raisins made the savory meat filling come alive with each bite. I’ve had braised beef filled with raisins before, like in braciole, but raisins in beef empanadas are an addictive combination. I love it and often crave this Mediterranean flavor. Unfortunately, finding beef empanadas with the sweet and savory meat filling is more difficult than you’d think.

Finally, to satisfy my craving for sweet and savory beef empanadas, I decided to undertake the task of making them at home. What I learned during this process is, just like pot sticker dough, corn tortillas, or pie dough, the process of making the dough is easy in theory and practice. Yet, getting the dough’s texture just right takes some additional practice and helpful suggestions from experienced hands. Fortunately, there are two options: you can make empanada dough or buy it ready-made and shaped.

I tested both options and feel confident recommending buying the empanada dough if you don’t want to make it. I also believe buying pastry might be the difference between making empanadas this weekend or placing it on your bucket list. Believe me I get it, after-all it has taken me 30 years to finally make empanadas for myself. According to my recipe from Bon Appetit, Goya is the recommended brand. Find frozen empanada dough in the frozen food section with other frozen Goya products. They come in packages of 10 pre-cut pastry discs. Another bonus is they are vegetarian/vegan friendly.

Don’t let me stop you from making empanada dough if that is your desire. Click, this link for a recipe at laylita.com.  Included with the recipe is a helpful video showing how to assemble the empanadas. I made this recipe by hand, with butter and with a flour mixture of 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour. Empanada pastry is different from pie dough in that it is not flaky, and is supposed to absorb the juices from the filling keeping a crumbly texture.

Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas, recipe.

 

Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas, recipe.

As for empanada filling, anything goes. There are many traditional fillings from South American and Central American countries, and within these countries each region has another variation. I am not sure of the origin of my favorite beef, raisin and Spanish olive filling so I feel at liberty to play around with the seasoning. The warm spices like cumin and cinnamon give the beef a lot of depth of flavor. Feel free to substitute it with ground pork, ground lamb, ground turkey, or shredded chicken. If you want a vegetarian empanada, substitute the beef with the filling from Swiss Chard and Feta Stuffed Pastry, or make this stuffed pastry as an option. I wonder how my Ratatouille made with Fennel and Chickpeas recipe would taste encased in empanada pastry?

My empanada recipe is slightly adapted from Argentinian Beef Empanadas from Bon Appetit, February 2017. I added additional spices and slightly adjusted their technique.

Where did the time go, and why did I wait so long to make beef empanadas? Beef empanadas are delicious either using homemade or purchased pastry dough. I know Joe is excited about having a freezer full of beef empanadas at his disposal. They make great snacks, appetizers, picnic food, or to eat for any meal of the day. Serve them plain or with chimichurri sauce.

Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas, recipe.

3 Tips for Making the Perfect Beef Empanadas

  • To ensure your empanadas have a tight seal and don’t explode in the oven, assemble the empanadas when the filling is at a cool room temperature or chilled. When the filling is cool there is less liquid oozing over the pastry.
  • Second, when assembling the empanadas, make sure the filling stays compact in the center and does not roll out to the edge. Making a tight seal along the edge is important to ensure the empanadas do not leak.
  • Third, once the empanadas are all assembled, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour. This chilling time allows the dough to relax and secure the seal. Of all the tips to remember, chilling the empanadas before you bake them is the most important.
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Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas, recipe.

Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas

Empanadas are a flaky pastry stuffed with a sweet or savory filling. They make great appetizers, lunch, light supper and perfect picnic food. Empanadas originated from Spain but many cultures all over the world have several regional varieties. I love empanadas with a sweet and savory meat filling. My favorite is with ground beef or lamb, raisins and olives seasoned with warm spices like cumin, paprika and cinnamon. You can substitute ground beef with ground pork, turkey, or lamb. Serve plain or with a chimichurri sauce . You can make the meat and dough ahead of time then assemble them the day they are made. Uncooked empanadas also freeze well for up to three months. Empanadas can be made one day in advance. Reheat on a sheet pan in a 300°F (149°C) oven for about 15 minutes or until warm through. The empanada filling recipe is slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, Argentinian Beef Empanadas, February 2017
Course Appetizer, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Argentianinian
Prep Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Empanadas

  • 3 TB olive oil divided
  • 1.5 lbs (750 g) ground beef
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 TB ground cumin
  • 2 TB sweet paprika
  • 1 TB dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml) chicken stock
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) raisins
  • 1/2 cup Spanish green olives pitted and rough chopped
  • 3 packages Puff pastry dough for Turnovers/Empanadas* preferably Goya or homemade empanada dough
  • You will need 2-3 large rimmed sheet pans. If you only have 2 sheet pans bake the empanadas over two batches.

Instructions

  1. If you are making homemade empanada dough , make it first then refrigerate it while you make the meat filling.

Empanada Filling

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a12-inch (29 cm) skillet (or Dutch Oven), at medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the meat and cook until browned with no visible pink spots. While the meat cooks, break it up using the side of a wooden spoon. Season with a pinch, about ¼ tsp, of Kosher salt and stir to mix.
  2. Remove the ground beef using a slotted spoon and place on a plate and loosely cover aluminum foil. Reserve for later.
  3. Lower the heat to medium then add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the chopped onions and bell peppers. Stir to evenly coat and cook until the onions and peppers have softened, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Stir frequently so the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the minced garlic, stir and cook for about one minute.
  5. Add the browned meat and any juices, bay leaf, cumin, paprika, oregano, ground cinnamon, ground clove and cayenne pepper to the meat mixture and stir to evenly mix. Cook for about one minute.
  6. Add the chicken stock, sugar and a 1/2 tsp of Kosher salt, and several rounds of freshly ground black pepper. Stir the mix, scraping along the bottom of the pan with your spoon to loosen up any browned bits. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is evaporated.
  7. Stir in the raisins and olives then transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper or sugar if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Allow the filling to cool down to a cool room temperature or cover and refrigerate for about an hour or more. The beef filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in an air tight container in the refrigerator.

Assemble the Empanadas

  1. Remove the defrosted purchased dough, or homemade dough, from the refrigerator and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  2. For the homemade dough, follow the instructions given with your recipe.
  3. Pre-heat the oven for 375°F / 190°C and place the racks in the upper and lower third position in the oven. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.
  4. Fill a glass or small bowl with water and keep at your work area.
  5. Place 6 pastry discs on a work surface. To prevent the pastry from sticking to your work surface keep the paper divider under the empanada pastry.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each disc. Dab your finger in the water and paint the edge of one pastry with water. Bring the two sides together by picking up the center points of the top and bottom of the pastry circle making a half moon shape. Starting at the center, pinch the edges together and move your fingers down both sides, pinching along the way to seal the edges.
  7. Lay the empanada flat on the work surface and run your fingers over the mounded part of the pastry to work out any air around the filling. Press down to secure the edges. Crimp the edges with the tines of a fork.
  8. Place the empanada on a parchment paper lined rimmed baking sheet and continue until all the filling is used up. Loosely drape the assembled empanadas with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel, so they do not dry out.
  9. Each sheet pan holds about 12 empanadas. When one sheet pan reaches capacity, loosely cover the empanadas with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Continue assembling the remaining empanadas and refrigerate for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
  10. Remove the empanadas from the refrigerator and baste each empanada with an egg yolk and water wash. Bake for 25-35 minutes, rotating the sheet pans front to back and top to bottom, half way through. The empanadas are done when they have a nice golden brown color and slightly darker around the edges.
  11. Do ahead note: Unbaked empanadas will keep for 3 months in the freezer. Freeze them on a sheet pan until they are frozen solid, then transfer them into freezer bags and keep in the freezer.

Recipe Notes

Goya makes puff pastry dough for turnovers/empanadas. They are found in the freezer section of your grocery store with other Goya products. This product should not be confused with puff pastry dough found in the dessert freezer section of the store.

Nutrition Facts
Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas
Amount Per Serving (2 g)
Calories 0
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Sweet and Savory Beef Empanadas.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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