Even though I have long (LONG) been obsessed with fattoush, I was never a huge fan of tabouli growing up. I think maybe it was too much fresh parsley for me, which sounds silly considering there is a decent amount in fattoush and plenty in Greek cooking, but for some reason tabouli didn’t do it for me. Plus, I’ve only recently come around to mint in savory foods (and our mint plant is out of control, so I guess that’s  a good thing).

I’ve had it a few times as an adult and though it will never replace my beloved fattoush, I find that I enjoy it much, much more now. I love bulgur, but we were really low on it when I decided to make tabouli, so I used quinoa instead. It’s a great substitute but both are really healthy and good for you so this isn’t one of those times when quinoa necessarily adds a ton of added benefits (it does add slightly more protein and has fewer carbs). I of course increased the lemon juice/ratio to oil and did decrease the mint by a bit.

We had this one night with a pork tenderloin I marinated in my shawarma marinade and the roasted vegetables with za’atar and it was definitely one of my favorite recent meals (but I could eat Middle Eastern food every day so I guess  you’ll have to take that for what it’s worth). While Zachary was asking for more zucchini over and over, Ian kept asking for more quinoa, so things ended up working out perfectly. :)

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There are plenty of things I didn’t like or didn’t give a chance to when I was a kid, but the two that stick out most are beans and peppers. At a restaurant, everything ordered would need to have these omitted. Mexican food? Double rice and don’t even bother with anything but the meat for the fajitas. Sandwiches or pizza? Keep your peppers to yourself. And with anything at home, these would be pushed to the side or never added to my plate to begin with. I don’t even know that I tried these things. I just decided I didn’t like them.

It’s funny because I love love LOVE these things now. I posted a picture of charred Anaheim and poblano pictures to Instagram recently and titled it “my BFFs” because they kind of are. I am pepper-obsessed, especially when it comes to green chiles. We started a small garden this year but you better believe it still contained poblanos and jalapeños.

Obviously, I adored these burgers. They reminded me a lot of my other potentially favorite (or at least top 3) burgers, these queso fundido ones. These use peppers that are a little spicier (Anaheim vs. poblano) and don’t have chorizo, but otherwise they’re very similar and both ridiculously delicious.

These are in a grilling cookbook, but you can definitely make them indoors. The chiles can be charred directly on the gas flame of your range, or under the broiler. I like to use a cast iron skillet when cooking burgers indoors. Illinois doesn’t actually want us to do much grilling out this year, as evidenced by the nonstop rain we’ve been receiving since Memorial Day, so contingency plans are key.

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I mentioned recently that Zachary’s new favorite vegetable, until it inevitably got knocked out of contention, were broad/fava beans. Well, goodbye broad beans; zucchini with zaatar vinaigrette is in town.

Z has always liked zucchini/summer squash well enough. Like most vegetables he prefers it roasted or grilled. He won’t eat the version they have at school, and I think that’s because it may be steamed. So, it wasn’t surprising that he liked this version, but it *was* a bit surprising that he ate 4 servings of it, and only stopped because there was none left.

I added some lemon juice to the vinaigrette because I just feel like it goes so well with zaatar. The sumac will add some tartness already, but lemon vinaigrettes are the bee’s knees for me. This was a great side dish and a nice change of pace both from dressed salads and plain cooked vegetables. There is a good chance I will be dressing 90% of things with zaatar vinaigrette from now on.

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Welcome to this year’s edition of Did Elly Successfully Make Tom’s Birthday Cake? Sure, sort of.

Tom’s birthday cakes and I have had a sordid past. There was the cake-turned-trifle incident. There was the didn’t-make-nearly-enough-frosting-and-ran-out-of-ingredients fiasco. There was the I’ve-tried-3-times-to-make-this-butterscotch-sauce-and-I-just-can’t-do-it-so-you-will-be-eating-your-cheesecake-plain problem. I’ve gotten better for the most part, though, so there’s that. I still can’t successfully frost a cake, but we’ll get there.

When Tom chose this cake I was both excited and nervous. Excited because caramel is clearly one of the most delicious things ever. Nervous because I don’t have the best track record with caramel. I asked Tom if I could decrease the recipe since it was just us eating it and it called for over 6 cups of sugar and a pound of butter. He said no. (I did end up decreasing the cake portion a bit; see notes in the recipe.)

The good (?) news is,  you get to beat the caramel with a wooden spoon for 20 minutes (I don’t even know how you “beat” something with a wooden spoon, btw) so you’ll get an arm workout and burn off approximately 1/10 of the slice of cake doing that.

The caramel takes forever to make. Luckily you don’t have to stand at the stove the entire time, only stirring it occasionally for the last hour and a half, but it takes time. Yes, I did say “the last hour and a half” (which actually took me more like 1h40m). The cake is a very straightforward recipe that yielded a very tasty and moist cake.

You will notice there are no pictures of the whole cake. That’s intentional. My cake looked nothing like the gorgeous picture on the original recipe. After I made the caramel I texted Tom and said, “Good news: I successfully made the caramel and didn’t burn down the house once! Bad news: Your cake is possibly the ugliest ever.

The cakes’ moisture led to them being a bit difficult to frost with the thickened caramel (crumbs and all of that). Plus the caramel color was not that pretty as it started to thicken. And, well, no matter how beautiful or easy to work with frosting is, it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t know how to frost a cake, anyway.

BUT LISTEN. This cake is GOOD. I mean, how can this cake not be good? You are frosting it with caramel. Not caramel buttercream, not caramel sauce over regular frosting. STRAIGHT UP CARAMEL. It is possibly the richest thing I’ve ever made, and even I, who does not find things “too rich” pretty much ever could only eat a small slice (thank goodness, please remember aforementioned amount of sugar and butter). At a time, I mean. Obviously I ate this cake every night until it was gone.

 

tl;dr version: Great cake, amazingly delicious caramel “frosting,” ugly as sin, rich, fattening, worth it.

 

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You know how a lot of times you’re looking to add something to your menu/party, and often you go with “a green salad” because it’s lighter, and you don’t have to think about it, and it goes with pretty much everything? Well, nothing is more truly a green salad than this one.

This simple salad is from my new BFF Yotam and it’s perfect for spring. We’re growing green beans and spinach (just harvested our first batch!) so it’s really perfect for us. All you do is blanch vegetables, make a dressing, and you’re done. I staggered my vegetables using a big pot so I wouldn’t have to keep pulling them out before adding new ones, and that worked just fine (I will always look out for you when it comes to doing less work. ;-))

You know that I like a more acidic dressing, so I did bring the lemon juice up a bit. Unfortunately my store didn’t carry nigella seeds, and I didn’t really feel like going on a hunt for them. This is the second recipe I’ve wanted to use them in, so I plan to just buy some online to make sure I have them on hand for the next time. This time around, I just omitted them.

In my son’s ever-changing list of “favorite vegetables” you can now put broad beans/fava at the top of the list – until next week when something replaces it, I’m sure.

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If you’ve ever eaten at a Greek-American diner in your day, you’ve likely seen this sauce. It often comes on top of rice, whether you order a chicken kabob or a gyro. It’s a thin tomato-based sauce that is really simple but strangely addictive. We never made this at home for some reason (at least, not on its own), and I never managed to really get much of a recipe from a family member (nor was/am I interested in attempting to scale down a recipe that serves a restaurant), so I’ve been making this myself and tweaking it here and there. I don’t know what it is about this stuff but I want to eat it all the time.

This is often served with rice that has been cooked in broth or bouillon. I like using brown rice most of the time, and I hate cooking it the “regular” way so what I do when I want brown rice to get some added flavor from broth without straying from my tried and true brown rice method is either to bake it or to boil it in a pot of water for about 15 minutes, and then put the drained rice in a saucepan with broth (at that point, roughly half of what you would have used had you made the rice according to package directions), and cook normally.

You could, of course, make this with fresh tomatoes, but they aren’t really that great here yet (and I made this a few weeks ago, anyway). Canned tomatoes work really well, so don’t fret. You don’t really use much sauce per serving, so this will make quite a few servings, but we just freeze extras in a few small freezer bags to use at another time (which is also why you are seeing two different pictures. :)) My favorite way to have this is over both rice and grilled chicken/kabobs. With feta on the side, obviously.

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Today is the first day of the kids’ “summer camp” and I sent them wearing jackets and jeans because it was in the 40s this morning. Happy June?

If you’re like us, you probably don’t have to worry *too much* at the moment about meals that don’t take too long to make and heat up the house, but even so, allow me to introduce to you my new obsession: protein + salsa/relish. I have a feeling that, like meatballs, you will be seeing approximately 30 versions of a similar dish in the coming months (okay, maybe not 30, I’ll try to keep it a little interesting around here). These dishes work so well because you can flavor the protein any which way you choose and change up the relish to anything that’s in season, anything that works with the dish, or really anything you feel like eating. We’ve already done a version of this particular salsa with rhubarb and tomorrow we’re potentially throwing a red pepper-hazelnut salsa into the summer rotation. The crisp, cool salsa is decidedly summery, even if the weather isn’t there yet.

You can cook the chicken on the grill or indoors and either way it won’t take long. A broiler will get the job done in 8 minutes or so and heats up quickly, so you don’t have to worry about a stifling hot kitchen. The salsa is easy enough to make that you can finish it in those 8 minutes (in the recipe below I’ve had you make it ahead but, let’s be real, I’m way more of a cook-as-I-go- than prep-ahead-kinda gal), which means that, depending on what else you decide to serve this with, you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes.

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I feel like we eat a lot of meatballs. Or meatball-like things. This may be something that comes with the territory of having kids, I guess? Kids love meatballs, or at least mine do. I mean, if you look at the first page of this blog alone, there are 3 meatball or meatball-like recipes on it. Four if you count burgers, which are kind of like giant meatballs. OK, I’ve typed the word “meatball” enough for at least a week.

Anyway, I know I told you recently that I have a crush on Lidia Bastianich and I have to tell you that I’ve been two-timing her with Yotam Ottolenghi. Though I’ve only blogged one of his other recipes, I have made several and they’ve all been faaaaaaaaaabulous. This one is no different.

These meatball-like (damn, I did it again) bites are extremely similar to kafta, but with the added goodness of feta, pine nuts, and zucchini. These were a HUGE hit with the whole family and even offered a way for me to get feta into Ian (seriously, what is with that kid not liking most cheeses, especially FETA?!). Though I didn’t do it this time, these would also be great with some yogurt sauce or labneh alongside (with the tomato sauce, I love them both together).  I also imagine these can be made entirely on the grill, but I know next to nothing about grilling, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. :)

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I don’t know who the first person was to pair rhubarb and strawberries together, but obviously, he or she was a genius. I guess it’s no surprise, what with both being in season at the same time and strawberries lending sweetness to tart rhubarb (and the other way around) but seriously, really good idea, Unknown Person.

I love to make bars. We love to eat bars. The amount of Trader Joe’s “a ___ walks into a bar” cereal bars we go through is…well, it’s a lot. I’ve made jam bars countless times.  I’ve added nutella. I’ve Christmassed them up with cranberries. There is just no getting around the fact that fruit bar desserts are good and so, so easy. And they don’t have to be for dessert, either. Deb called these “breakfast bars,” which gave me license to have one each morning until they were gone. Fruit and oats = oatmeal, right?

I saved about half the mixture for the top (reading comprehension failure), which was a bit too much, so you’ll probably want to do 1/2 CUP, as the recipe indicates. :)

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In the past, I have not spoken highly of ground turkey (or any sort of turkey, really) on this blog. It’s still not my favorite, but I’m beginning to see the value. It will never replace beef for me and, in fact, many times it’s not even healthier than lean beef, so why bother (I know, red meat, blah blah blah)? That said, I’ve gotten way better at both using it and making it. The farmer we used to get our meat from had REALLY good prices on ground turkey, so I blame him largely for the increase in consumption. The rest I credit to a veeeery technical culinary term I like to call flavoring the hell out of it.

These meatballs are quite basic but still full of flavor from the lemon zest, green onions, and parsley (and the dried oregano, which I couldn’t keep from adding since it’s a  natural pairing with lemon, if you’re Greek at least). On top of that, this meal comes together pretty quickly. The recipe does call for refrigerating the meatballs for 15 minutes after forming them (which I definitely recommend, also, so they don’t fall apart), but of course you could just make the meatballs earlier in the day or the night before and refrigerate them until you need them, making the actual dinnertime prep a little shorter (and the meatballs sturdier and more flavorful).

I don’t know if I’m a salt fiend or what, but 1/2 tsp. of salt did not seem like nearly enough for 1.25 lbs. of turkey (I generally use about 1 tsp. to 1 lb. of meat) so I increased that and honestly felt like they could have used a touch more, but maybe I *am* a salt fiend, so I’ve left the proportion a little lower than my standard below. Also, a cup and a half of rice sounded like too much for four servings, so I brought it down to 1 cup, which worked out well, with a good proportion of protein to carbs. Speaking of the carbs, they were of course my favorite part of the meal. White rice is such a guilty pleasure of mine, and add some tart, bright lemon and it’s a real home run in my book.

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