Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Kofta-style meatloaf with tahini sauce

Happy New Year from Southern Spoon! Excited to share another year of cooking with you.


Comfort food with a twist is just what today's grey, rainy Los Angeles day called for. This is a great cold-weather recipe adapted from the incredible Ottolenghi's Jerusalem cookbook. Koftas, like meatballs, are tasty bites of ground lamb and beef, spiced just right and often served with pita bread, salad, and a tahini or yogurt based sauce. But, like meatballs, koftas take a while to prepare, rolling them individually, and then searing them in batches or baking them in an oven.

My sister and I made Ottolenghi's recipe as called, into small meatballs, for dinner one night when I was staying with her a couple of weeks ago. She's a very busy gal, and after we spent an enjoyable evening together making them, she mentioned that if she made them again she would just form the mixture into a meatloaf so that it could bake all at once. Genius! I experimented with this method and it worked out perfectly-- thanks for the idea, sister. The recipe makes a big meatloaf, enough to serve a small crowd.
Lamb & beef kofta meatloaf give a traditional American dinner Mediterranean flavor. 
Meatloaf is difficult to photograph and make look pretty, but I promise it's delicious. It's also gluten-free and paleo-friendly, without any breadcrumbs or fillers. Serve it alongside steamed greens (swiss chard, broccoli) and roasted veggies (butternut squash, sweet potatoes, peppers, beets), and you have a substantial meal that will feed a family and probably yield some leftovers for the next day. Enjoy!

Kofta-syle meatloaf with tahini sauce
serves 6-8

Meatloaf
14 oz (400 g) ground lamb
14 oz (400 g) ground beef
1 yellow or white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (divided use)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley)
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional, for garnish)

Tahini sauce
1/2 cup tahini (hulled or unhulled)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch of freshly ground sea salt

Preheat oven to 325F / 163C. Place all of the meatloaf ingredients (using only 4 tablespoons of the pine nuts) in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf, and place the loaf into a baking dish with raised edges (such as a pyrex dish), or, if you have one, a large cast iron skillet.

Bake meatloaf at 325F / 163C for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, checking for doneness by seeing if the meat is cooked through in the centre (it should be no longer pink and should register 160F / 71 C on an instant read thermometer).

Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce by whisking all of the ingredients together. Set aside.

In the last 10 minutes of cooking the meatloaf, pour 1/2 of the tahini sauce evenly over the top of the meatloaf, and return to the oven to cook. When done, remove the meatloaf from the oven, and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons pine nuts and, if desired, a tablespoon of chopped parsley. Serve straight from the cast iron skillet or dish, alongside the remaining tahini sauce.

*Storage tip: extra meatloaf and sauce will keep, covered in the fridge, for 2-3 days. 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Kung Pao Chicken with Zucchini & Carrot Noodles

Delinquent blogger alert. It's been almost 8 months since my last post, whoops! In fairness, it's been a strange year, having been separated from the hubs for 3/4 of it by the good ole US dept of immigration, and then, finally being able to live and work in the same country, moving out to California to start our new lives in America. We're now happily settled on the west coast and loving exploring our fantastic city and state.
Our new city! Los Angeles from the Getty Museum.
This awesome, easy recipe is a little nod to the Chinese influences shared by our most recent home, Sydney, and our new one in Los Angeles. And it's adapted from everyone's favorite British naked chef, Jamie Oliver, so you know it will be flavorful and fresh. It's got the perfect spicy, slightly caramely finish without being overly sauced like so much of the American Chinese cuisine you might remember if you grew up in the 80s and 90s.
Kung Pao chicken: peppery and bursting with fresh ginger, garlic, and spring onions.  
We served the chicken over spiralized zucchini and shaved carrot ribbons, which was perfect. But you could also serve over rice, cauliflower rice, or with roasted vegetables. We loved the bold flavors so much that we're going to make this for my family back in Texas one night over the holiday break- it will be a refreshing (and gluten free) change of pace from the traditional Christmas spread. Give it a try, you'll never order Kung Pao take-out again!
Zucchini noodles and carrot ribbons round out a meal that's light but flavorful. 

Kung Pao Chicken with Zucchini & Carrot Noodles
Serves 4
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe here

1 tablespoon black peppercorns (or Szechuan peppercorns if you have 'em)
2 tablespoons gluten free flour (or cornflour)
4-5 chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon oil that can withstand high heat (such as olive oil)
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
3 green onions (spring onions/scallions), thinly sliced
1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (to taste)
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
2 teaspoons honey
4 zucchinis, spiralized into noodles (or shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler)
3 carrots, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1/4 cup crushed cashews
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (coriander), coarsely chopped

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the peppercorns, and cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking occasionally, until toasted and fragrant. Transfer the peppercorns to a grinder or a mortar and pestle, and grind finely.

Place the gluten free flour in a large bowl, and add the ground pepper. Add the chicken, and toss to coat evenly with the flour mixture.

Heat the large skillet again over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of oil. Carefully add the chicken to the pan, and fly for 7-8 minutes, until cooked through. Stir occasionally while cooking to avoid burning, and careful not to get burned by splattering oil. (A splatter screen makes this step much cleaner!). Remove the chicken from the pan and onto a plate lined with paper towels.

While the chicken is cooking, heat a large pot over low heat, and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the zucchini and carrot noodles/ribbons to the pot, stir to coat in the oil, then cover with a lid. Continue to cook the noodles over low heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy. Remove from heat and remove lid when finished.

Carefully discard most of the cooking oil from the skillet in which you cooked the chicken, leaving about 2 tablespoons oil. Add the garlic, ginger, green onions, and red pepper flakes to the skillet, and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure the garlic doesn't burn. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and honey to the skillet, stirring to combine with the garlic-onion mixture, and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken back to the skillet, and stir to combine and reheat the chicken, about 2 minutes.

Serve the chicken over the zucchini and carrot noodles, and top with a sprinkle of the crushed cashews and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

Storage tip: The vegetable noodles will become mushy as leftovers, but they still taste fine. The chicken will keep for up to 3 days in a sealed container in the fridge.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bell Pepper & Beef Fiesta Skillet Bake

Today concludes Fiesta week in San Antonio-- a city-wide party that culminates in a Fiesta Friday holiday and colorful parades through historic downtown and the famous riverwalk. For the first time in 10 years I am in town to celebrate: hooray! I attended the lively King William Fair, watched the night-time Flambeau Parade, and cajoled my parents into joining me at Night in Old San Antonio, a party in the historic La Villita area with hundreds of food and drink booths set up to represent all the different cultures that have formed Texas. The most beloved food booth is Maria's Tortillas, where seasoned tortilla makers slap together masa flour dough to make thousands of tortillas over charcoal burning stoves. Fresh off the coals and filled with cheese and salsa, they are the quintessential melt-in-your-mouth taste of old San Antonio. Everyone carries around their NIOSA cups filled with margaritas, beer, or raspas, eats freshly-made food, and dances to live music while trying to crack cascarones (dyed eggshells filled with confetti) over friends' heads.
bell peppers, corn, black beans, and ground beef topped with avocado and cheese
make a gluten-free, one-skillet meal
In the spirit of this festive holiday, I made a Tex-Mex inspired cast iron skillet bake filled with bell peppers, corn, black beans, and ground beef, and topped with avocados and cheese. I served the skillet straight out of the oven to the table, with bowls of plain yogurt and salsa so people could help themselves to toppings. This gluten-free meal was hearty and delicious, and could easily be adapted to whatever you have on hand/like to eat. Leave out the beans, corn, and cheese for a paleo-friendly version, skip the meat for a vegetarian version, etc. If you don't have prepared fajita seasoning on hand, there's a great homemade recipe here. And if you don't have a cast-iron skillet, this would work just as well prepared over the stove top in a large skillet, then either top with the avocado and cheese and cover for a few minutes until the cheese melts, or place the beef and pepper mixture in a pie plate or casserole dish to top with the avocado slices and cheese for the final quick pop in the oven.

Enjoy these flavors wherever you are, and think of the cultural traditions that make your hometown come together to celebrate. Viva Fiesta!

Bell Pepper & Beef Fiesta Skillet Bake
Serves 4-5

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion
1 lb ground beef
two tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons fajita seasoning (divided use)
two bell peppers, any color, diced (or thinly sliced with a spiralizer)
1 cup fresh or frozen corn (thaw if frozen)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

To Serve:
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup plain/Greek yogurt or sour cream


Preheat oven to 400F/ 205C.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet (at least 10 inches) over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion, and saute 5-7 minutes, until translucent and beginning to brown. Add 1 teaspoon of fajita seasoning and the ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces, and stirring to brown it evenly, about 5-6 minutes. Once the meat has cooked through, add the tomato paste, and stir to distribute. Remove the beef mixture from the skillet into medium sized bowl, set aside.

To the hot skillet add the garlic, sauteing for 1 minute, then add the bell peppers, corn, and another teaspoon of fajita seasoning. Saute until the peppers begin to soften, 4-5 minutes. Add the black beans and stir to incorporate. Add the beef mixture back to the skillet, and stir gently to evenly distribute the beef through the vegetables. (Taste the mixture at this point, and add a bit more fajita seasoning or a pinch of salt if you'd like).

Top the skillet mixture with the sliced avocados and shredded cheese. Place in the oven and bake at 400F/ 205C for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve immediately with salsa and yogurt or sour cream.

Serving Tip: Tex-Mex dishes are often served with a simple salad of shredded lettuce topped with a dollop of guacamole and chopped tomatoes. This would be the perfect side for this hearty skillet bake.

Storage Tip: leftover skillet bake will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.