Chimichurri

Have you ever had chimichurri? You may have had it and not known what it is… but it’s essentially an Argentinian pesto, that is typically parsley-based. As with an Italian pesto, you’ll often see slight variations – some are thicker in consistency, some are thinner, some are more finely minced, others are chunkier – but they’re all bright and herbacious and delicious, and a perfect accompaniment to any kind of protein you prefer.

Chimichurri

This summer, I’ve made chimichurri a handful of times, and it’s been great because it is a one-sauce solution to multiple different main courses. You guys know I’m not much of a steak person, but my husband IS – so, I can make up a batch of chimichurri, and we can grill his steak, and my shrimp (or chicken, or pork, or fish), and top both with the same sauce. It’s also great spooned over some roasted potatoes, and any traces left on your plate are best sopped up with a big chunk of bread.

Chimichurri
makes about 1.5 cups

about one cup of fresh parsley, lightly packed
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
4 cloves of garlic
1 generous tablespoon red wine vinegar
1-2 T honey or agave
large pinch each of kosher salt and pepper
olive oil

Chimichurri

If you want to make the chimichurri in your food processor, throw everything but the olive oil into the work bowl, and pulse until everything is chopped well. Stream the olive oil in while the machine runs, adding as much as you like to create your preferred consistency (I used about 1/3 cup, give or take).

If you don’t have (or don’t want to dirty) a food processor, you can absolutely make chimichurri by hand. Finely mince your parsley, and grate your garlic on a microplane grater; then add everything to a bowl and mix.

Taste the sauce for seasoning and acidity; if you had some really sour lemons, you might want to add a touch more honey or agave. On the other hand, if your lemons were on the sweeter side, or the agave you have on hand is extra sweet, you can add a splash more red wine vinegar. Resist the urge to add more garlic right off the bat, as it intensifies as it sits.

Chimichurri

You can make the chimichurri ahead of time – just throw it in a jar or other airtight container, and keep it in the fridge. The olive oil might solidify once it gets cold, so just remember to take it out of the fridge an hour or so before serving, so it has time to soften up. The sauce will keep, flavor-wise, for 3 or 4 days, but parsley does brown over time, so it looks less pretty. It’s great for parties or barbecues – as a main course OR an appetizer. Season your protein of choice with salt and pepper, grill or saute it (on or off a skewer), and serve with a bowl of chimichurri for dipping and spooning. Congratulations, you have officially won the potluck competition that only exists in your head!

Chimichurri

Chimichurri has been known to save even the most brutally overcooked of steaks,
Tina

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Grilled Artichoke Subs

Do you have Penn Station subs where you live? We have a few near me – one by my office, and one by my house that’s pretty new. I’ve had their subs a few times over the years, and I usually just select some kind of turkey sub, as is my standard at a sub shop. Probably about a year ago, I realized they had a grilled artichoke sub – and I was immediately intrigued, as I love artichokes, and the only thing better than a plain artichoke is one that’s covered in cheese. Needless to say, it was love at first bite! And it only took me about 9 months to realize, DUH, I could make one of these at home! (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting one from the sub shop… but Penn Station also serves fresh-cut fries, and I think in Michigan it’s illegal to exit an establishment that sells fresh-cut fries without BUYING any fresh-cut fries, and I don’t want to go to jail, so I always end up with a bucket of fries in addition to my sub… and let’s just say that’s not doing anything positive for my waistline.)

Grilled Artichoke Subs

Please note: you could also leave the top of the bread off this sandwich, cut the cheesy artichoke bread into 2″ pieces, and serve it as an appetizer. Versatility!

Grilled Artichoke Subs
serves 2

2 demi baguettes (or one regular baguette)*
3 T mayo (low-fat is fine)
2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
juice of half a lemon
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts (packed in water, not oil)
1 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
kosher salt
black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 slices provolone cheese

Grilled Artichoke Subs

*In general, I prefer a baguette with a good, crisp crust. However, for these specific subs, I like to look for a baguette that’s slightly softer. Since we’re baking the subs, the exterior will have plenty of time to crisp up – and if you’re starting with a baguette that’s already pretty hard, the roof of your mouth will get destroyed as you try to enjoy your dinner. Just my 2 cents.

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°. Drain the canned artichokes well, and then lay the artichokes in a single layer on some paper towel to drain further; water gets trapped in between the leaves, so you want to make sure to get rid of as much of that moisture as possible to avoid having a soggy sub!

2.) Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter to the pan, and once it’s hot, add the artichokes. Season the artichokes with a pinch each of salt and pepper, the red pepper flakes, and the dried oregano. Stir until everything is well-combined, and then leave the artichoke mixture alone for a couple minutes, so they will start to crisp and brown a bit on the bottom.

3.) Once the artichokes have started to brown nicely, add the grated parmesan, and stir well. Let the artichokes cook another minute or so, and the parmesan will start to brown and crisp a bit, too.

4.) While the artichokes crisp up, make your mayo. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo, lemon juice, and grated garlic. If you don’t love the taste of raw garlic, you can cut this back to one clove, or use a dash of garlic powder instead. Set the mayo aside.

5.) Slice your baguettes in half, leaving the “hinge” intact on the back side of the bread. I like to scoop out some of the bread from the interior of the baguette to make adequate room for artichokes (and as a bonus: the interior of the bread is excellent in a kale panzanella salad).

6.) Spread the bottom of each baguette with the garlic mayo, and top with half of the artichokes. Lay the provolone slices over the top of the artichokes, and bake the subs for 10-15 minutes, until the edges of the bread are golden brown, and the cheese is nicely melted and browned. Serve immediately.

Grilled Artichoke Subs

I mean… seriously. These subs are so cheesy, and gooey, and delicious! And despite being meatless, they still feel and taste hearty and filling, because the artichokes are pretty meaty (as vegetables go). Crisping up the parmesan in the pan adds just a bit of nutty flavor, and the lemon in the mayo lends a little acid to cut through the richness of the cheese. In recent months, we’ve had these subs for dinner at least once every 10 days or so – paired with a salad, or some roasted chickpeas, or some variety of roasted vegetable. Fast, easy, and satisfying.

My household is basically keeping the artichoke industry in business,
Tina

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto

So, you whipped up a batch of kale pesto last week, and you had a bit leftover… not quite enough to freeze for another batch of pasta, but enough that it seems silly to throw away. A few tablespoons worth, maybe. I found myself in this exact situation this past week – or, almost this exact situation. Turns out, the monster bunch of kale I used to make my pesto actually produced enough pesto for TWO one-pound batches of pasta… and then some. I mixed some of the pesto with linguine for dinner (and several leftover lunches for my husband), froze another portion to have on hand for an easy dinner later, and still had about a quarter cup left. I threw it in the fridge, knowing I’d come up with a way to use it later.

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto

Well, later came – and it was yet another exceptionally frigid day, with a threat of snow. By the time I got home from work, I was exhausted and freezing, and wanted nothing more than to put on my warmest sweats, and make dinner in less than 15 minutes. Enter: leftover kale pesto! A quick scan of the fridge produced two great ways to use up the leftovers. First, grilled cheese sandwiches, fancied up with some kale pesto, and crisped prosciutto. Second? A delicious dip for raw vegetables that took approximately 8 seconds to make. And BAM, dinner was done!

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto
serves 2

4 slices sandwich bread (I used a fairly hearty white bread)
2 T leftover kale pesto
2 one ounce slices of provolone cheese (mozzarella or monterey jack would be fine, too)
3 thin slices of prosciutto
2 T grated asiago cheese or parmesan cheese
salted butter

1.) Start by crisping up your prosciutto. Heat a small skillet over medium heat, and throw in the prosciutto slices; it should take just a minute or two on each side for the prosciutto to render some fat, crisp up, and turn golden brown. Remove the prosciutto to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto

2.) On two of the slices of bread, spread a tablespoon of the kale pesto. Top with the provolone cheese, then the prosciutto, then the asiago or parmesan. Top each sandwich with the remaining slices of bread.

3.) Heat a skillet over medium low heat, and melt about half a teaspoon of butter in the center of the pan. Most people spread softened butter directly on to the bread for their grilled cheese; personally, I find that, while it results in a crispy, buttery, brown crust on the sandwich, it’s a little TOO buttery and greasy for my liking (and I LOVE me some butter, trust me). By melting the butter directly into the skillet, you’re able to use a lot less, and still get the desired brown, crispy crust. ANYWAYS (my apologies for my lecture on Grilled Cheese Etiquette), melt the bit of butter in the center of the pan, and then add your sandwich to the pan.

(Please excuse my excessively dirty stove top. I swear I cleaned it as soon as I was done making these grilled cheese sandwiches.)

(Please excuse my excessively dirty stove top. I swear I cleaned it as soon as I was done making these grilled cheese sandwiches.)

4.) Cook each sandwich for about 2-3 minutes per side, until the bread is golden brown, and the cheese is fully melted (I often loosely tent the pan with foil, to help speed up the cheese melting process). Add a bit more butter to the pan when you flip the sandwich, so the second side will brown nicely as well.

5.) Allow the sandwiches to rest for a couple minutes after removing them from the pan, so the cheese can firm up slightly, then cut in half and serve.

Of course, this “recipe” is about as flexible as they come. If you don’t have prosciutto? Use bacon! If you don’t want to use meat? Don’t! If you think tomatoes would really make this grilled cheese amazing? Put some in! Got some leftover caramelized onions looking for a home? Add ’em to your sandwich!

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto, Kale Pesto and Greek Yogurt Vegetable Dip

To make the vegetable dip, here’s what you need to do: place 1/3 cup of plain greek yogurt or sour cream into a bowl. Add a tablespoon of leftover kale pesto. Stir. Serve with raw vegetables or crackers of your choice. (It may have taken me 1,000 words to tell you how to make a grilled cheese, but I can be succinct about a two-ingredient dip, dammit!)

The point of all of these very, very many words: even if you HATE leftovers (*Tina quietly raises her hand*), you can often make them into something totally different than their original state. Leftover meatballs can become meatball pizza! Extra ham from Easter turns into a delicious dip! A pesto that began its life as a pasta sauce is now a sandwich spread!

Grilled Cheese with Kale Pesto and Prosciutto

I apologize for the excessive use of exclamation points this morning,
Tina

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Let’s talk about lamb. In general, I find that people either love lamb, or they really, really hate lamb. It’s pretty rare to find someone who feels neutral about lamb, in my experience. And I will be honest with you – I hated lamb. I hated it A LOT. Every time I tried it, it was just SO gamey and overly intense with its flavor of ANIMAL. I am in no way squeamish about the fact that eating meat = eating an animal, but lamb was just too much for me.

As with most experiences in my life in which I discovered I actually liked a food I thought I hated (my mom would love to tell you about the time I discovered that ravioli was actually delicious), I was being polite. We were enjoying a little family weekend at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Illinois, and they had decided to make a big, beautiful dinner… with lamb being the star of the show. Now, my family knows I’m not a huge meat eater, and that I have zero problem making my meal out of all the sides, and avoiding the meat. So, of course, I encouraged them to make their lamb dish, and I would just opt out if I needed to. When the meal was ready, the lamb smelled INCREDIBLE – so, I figured I’d try one little lamb chop, hate it, and pass the remainder on to my husband. I took one little bite of the lamb (smothered in the delicious greek yogurt and herb sauce), and I LOVED it. I proceeded to eat something like 4 lamb chops, to the amazement of myself, and my entire family. And this recipe shall remain on our “special dinners” list from now on. (I won’t lie to you, lamb ain’t cheap. That’s why this isn’t on our “regular old Tuesday night dinners” list – this bad boy is special occasions only.)

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce
recipe modified slightly from here
serves 4 generously

For the lamb:
two racks of lamb, frenched, and cut into 8 chops each
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
juice of 4 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine

For the yogurt mint sauce:
generous 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
6 green onions, white and light green parts
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice and zest of one lemon
one cup of plain greek yogurt (please do not use fat free – use 2% or full fat)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1.) Start by making the marinade for your lamb. In a food processor, combine the garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt, and pepper, and pulse until everything is finely minced. Remove the herb mixture to another bowl, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and wine; stir until everything is well-combined.

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

2.) Place your lamb chops in a single layer in the bottom of a baking dish, and pour the marinade over them, turning them to make sure all the meat gets coated. Cover the dish tightly, and refrigerate overnight. Late the next morning, turn the chops over, and allow them to keep marinating until just before you’re going to cook them.

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

3.) At the same time you turn the chops, make your yogurt mint sauce. Add the mint, dill, green onions, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and olive oil to your food processor, and pulse until finely minced. Then, add the greek yogurt, salt and pepper, and pulse a few more times, until everything is well combined. Cover the sauce and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, so all the flavors have a chance to marry.

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

4.) Remove the lamb from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to cook it. Heat a large grill pan (or your grill) to medium-high heat, and brush it with a little bit of olive oil. Remove the chops from the marinade, sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper, and grill for about 4 minutes on the first side, 3 minutes on the second side. If you prefer your lamb more toward well-done, grill them for about 5 minutes per side. Remove them to a large platter, and cover them tightly with foil. Allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Serve the warm chops with the cold yogurt sauce, and enjoy! I served our chops with a side of roasted chickpeas, and some cauliflower steaks, and it was one of the best meals we’ve had at home in a long, long time. The lamb has an insane amount of flavor, and is unbelievably tender and juicy – combined with the cold, herby yogurt mint sauce? Heaven.

This meal is PERFECT for company – it’s quite impressive, and the bulk of the work can be done ahead of time! Once the meat is marinated, and the sauce is made, you’re ready to throw the chops on the grill when company arrives (and your oven is totally open for whatever sides you decide to serve it with). For all those reasons, it would also make a lovely holiday meal, if you’re okay with non-traditional foods. These chops would even be great for a cocktail party – lamb chops are fairly small, and that bone makes a great handle for eating them without a fork and knife. A platter of lamb chops with a side of sauce for dipping would make a great, slightly heartier appetizer.

Side note: the leftover yogurt mint sauce is amazing on everything! We put it on some chicken sandwiches, used it to dip vegetables, and basically ate it straight from the bowl. Do not discard the extra sauce, whatever you do!

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

I was essentially gnawing on the chop bones like a cave woman,
Tina