Italian, Savory

Stuffed Zucchini

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This is a versatile recipe and it will most certainly make the “veggie-haters” eat zucchini.  For this particular recipe, I used ground beef with Italian flavors.  You could use taco spices for a Mexican spin and you can change up the protein with ground chicken or turkey.  You can also make this a 100% vegetarian meal by using beans, corn, quinoa, and peppers as a filling.  I have also heard a friend use crabmeat as a filling, which I have to try next.   However you choose to make this, it is a fool-proof way to jazz up zucchini!

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Ingredients

2 large medium-sized zucchini

1 medium onion, chopped

1.5 cups of ground beef

1/2 tsp of minced garlic

1/4 tsp of Calabrian chili paste

1 tsp of Italian seasoning

1 tsp of tomato paste

1/2 cup of tomato basil sauce

1 Tbsp of fresh parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp of olive oil, plus additional oil to brush on zucchini

Shredded mozzarella cheese for melting on top, as much as you like

salt and pepper for seasoning.

Method:

Slice zucchini down the middle, length-wise.  Using a melon baller or a spoon, scoop out the inside of the zucchini, making a hollow “boat”.  Season with a little bit of salt and let the zucchini rest for 30 minutes to an hour.  This will pull out some of the excess liquid in the zucchini and also season the flesh.

Preheat oven to 375F.  While that happens, move on to making the filling.

Heat oil in a skillet and add the ground beef.  Saute till it starts to brown.  Then add all the remaining spices except for the tomato basil sauce and parsley.

Cook all the ingredients, till the beef is dark brown, and all the spices have bloomed and are married together.

Finally, add the sauce and parsley and cook for an additional 7-9 minutes.  At this point, you can store the filling in the fridge for later use or you can proceed to the next step.

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Using a paper towel, blot the excess moisture off the Zucchini and arrange them, cut-side up, on a greased baking pan.  Sprinkle the cavity with some black pepper and bake the zucchini for 10 minutes.

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Pull out the zucchini and fill then with beef mixture.  You will note in the picture that two of the “boats” have more filling than the other two, personal preference really, I like more vegetable and my husband prefers more beef.  He also likes more cheese as you will see in the following pictures.

 

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Baked the filled zucchini for another 10 minutes.

Top the boats with cheese (as much as you like) and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and bubbly!  Turn the broiler on at the end if you want to brown the top of the cheese.

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Serve piping hot!

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Classics, Dinner, Italian, Meat, Savory

Braciole

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This is my take on a classic Italian Braciole or beef-roll ups.  This is an easy and hearty dish that looks extremely elegant.  You can make the filling several days ahead and if you use store-bought marinara sauce, this meal comes together in about a half an hour, elevating any boring weeknight to date night!  Here is how I made this dish.

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Ingredients:

For the roll-up:

2 pieces of flank-steak, pounded thin (the package might say “braciole)

A double batch of Sauteed Mushrooms and Spinach

1 Tbsp of breadcrumbs

Salt and cracked black pepper to season the meat, about a 1tsp of each.

1 Tbsp of olive oil

Kitchen string cut into 6-8 pieces, long enough to wrap around and tie the rolled meat

For the sauce:

1 cup of marinara or tomato-basil sauce

1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tsp of Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp of balsamic vinegar

Method:

Cook the spinach and mushrooms (you can find the recipe here).  You will need to double the recipe so that you have enough filling.  The filling can be made several days in advance.

Season the meat with salt and pepper.  Mix the bread crumb with spinach and mushroom filling.

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Divide the filling on to the two pieces of flank steak and spread it on to the meat.  Press the filling down, so that it sticks to the meat–it will stay in place when you go to roll it.

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Starting from the short end, roll the steak up like a jelly-roll, tightly; tucking in any filling that may fall out.

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Using the pre-cut kitchen twine ( I like to cut it ahead of time), tie up the rolls tightly.

Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet and once it is hot, add the beef roll-ups.  I like to add some additional cracked black pepper at this step, makes for a really nice crust!

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Sear on high heat, about 2-3 minutes per side, making sure you get the entire surface of the roll browned–not just top and bottom.  After you get the initial sear, you may lower the heat to medium and continue to cook, rolling the beef to a different surface ever 2 minutes.  The entire process will take about 15- 20 minutes.  It might take longer if your rolls are larger.

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let the beef rolls rest for at least 5 minutes before you cutting the string and slicing the meat.

While the beef is searing, heat all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepot.  You are looking to warm up the sauce so that all the ingredients get a chance to blend in and impart their flavor.  You keep the sauce on a low simmer the entire time the beef is cooking.

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To plate dinner, spoon sauce on a plate and arrange two slices of the braciole/beef-roll up.  Pour yourself a glass of red wine and dinner is served!

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Dinner, Indian, Meat, Savory

Gosht jalfrezi

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The word Gosht is a Persian word and loosely refers to any kind of read meat cooked till tender.  It can be mutton, lamb or beef.  This particular version of Jalfrezi is made with beef and is another one of my Simmer Sauce Solutions.  The vegetarian version of this recipe, made with paneer, potatoes, peppers, peas, and cauliflower is equally delicious.  Here is how doctored up a store-bought simmer sauce to make dinner in under an hour.

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Ingredients:

1.5 lbs of cubed stew meat (I used beef)

1 medium red onion, red pepper, and green pepper–diced

1 tsp of olive oil

3/4 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of chili powder

1/4 tsp of cayenne powder

1 tsp of ground cumin

1/2 tsp of garam masala

1/2 tsp of sugar

1, 15oz jar of Patak’s Jalfrezi simmer sauce

15oz water

Method

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottom pot and add the beef.  Make sure the beef is at room temperature and dry–otherwise it will not brown. Fry on high for about 5 minutes

Once the meat starts to turn light brown, add in all the spices except for the sugar and garam masala.

Sautee the beef on medium-high.  Chop the vegetables during this process.

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Add the veggies, to the beef and continue to saute on medium-high heat till the vegetables are soft.

Add the who jar of the jalfrezi simmer sauce.  Fill the jar with water, rinse our ever last bit of the sauce and add the liquid to the pot.

Cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom.

After about 20 minutes, check to see if the beef is fork-tender.  At this point add the sugar and garam masala and simmer for another 10 minutes on low heat.

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Serve hot with basmati rice!

Classics, Comfort food, Dinner, Italian, Savory

Spaghetti and Meatballs

 

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Nothing gets more comforting than spaghetti and meatballs.   If you have read my Simmer Sauce Solutions article, you will know that I have good pasta sauce in my pantry all the time, making it extremely easy to pull together this meal.  During this pandemic, as we all spend Easter away from our families, a simple, classic meal like this is just what the soul needs.  I did not grow up with spaghetti and meatballs, I had Murgh Kofta.  However, my husband did and he associates this meal with a lot of wonderful childhood memories. Therefore, the pressure was on to remake this meal to his liking–after all, you don’t want to mess with food memories.  So this recipe is now our family’s version of spaghetti and meatballs; the husband approved and we had hearty Easter dinner!  So if you are like me and did not grow up with this classic Italian-American meal, I hope you try it.  If you like it, please drop a comment below!

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Ingredients:

1 pound 80/20 beef (you need the fat for flavor)

1 small onion

2 tsp of minced garlic

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes

1 tsp of dried parsley

4 Tbsp of breadcrumbs

1 egg

1, 24oz jar of Victoria’s Tomato Basil sauce

1/2 box of pasta or however much you need to cook for your family.

Method:

Preheat oven to 375F and line a metal baking dish with parchment paper

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In a food processor, chop onion and minced garlic together, The smaller the chop, the better, it will make smooth, round meatballs.

In a bowl, add the minced onion and garlic, beef, egg, parsley, red pepper flakes, salt, and breadcrumbs.

With your hands (yes, your hands!! you have to use your fingers to mix), start mixing all the ingredients together, without folding the in the beef–it is in the bowl, but just work around it.  Once all the other ingredients are mixed, start folding in the beef.  It is critical not to overmix the meatball mixture, nobody wants dense meatballs that tough like hockey pucks.

Roll meatballs into 1-inch rounds and place them on a baking sheet.  I got approximately 12 meatballs from this recipe.

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Bake for 30-35 minutes, till the meatballs are brown and cooked through.  Half-way through the baking process, I remove most of the oil that sweats out from the meatballs–you don’t want to start a grease fire in your oven.

Remove meatballs from the cookie sheet and drain and cool on a paper-towel lined plate.  At this point, you can cool the meatballs completely and freeze them or you could proceed to bathe them in the tomato sauce.

Start cooking the pasta according to package directions.

In a separate pot, add the meatballs and cover them with jarred tomato sauce, just enough to cover all the meatballs.  I like to add some dried basil and red pepper flakes to “wake-up” the jarred sauce, but that is entirely optional.  This brand is really good to begin with!

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Reserve, half cup of the startchy cooking water, and drain the pasta, 2 minutes shy of the cook time.  Return the drained pasta to the pot, add the pasta water and enough of the jarred sauce to coat the pasta.  Cook the pasta in the liquid for another two minutes till most of the liquid has evaporated and pasta is completely cooked through.

Plate the pasta with meatballs and extra sauce and serve piping hot.  A garnish of basil would be great, but during this pandemic, I am working with what in the fridge and pantry.

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Mexican, Quick Dinner, Savory

Leftover Makeover

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Everyone struggles with leftovers.  They either don’t reheat well or it is just another boring repetitive meal.  I had taco meat leftover, not enough for a meal and certainly not worth buying 12 more taco shells.  I also had leftover rice (we had it with stir-fry) and it was not making a curry or turning it into fried rice—too many ingredients to buy to rescue rice!  Instead, I bought two green peppers and used it to make Stuffed Peppers!!!  I usually make Stuffed Peppers from scratch, but this time, I just mixed the rice with the beef and filled in the de-seeded, halved pepper shells.  The trick is to roast the shells with olive oil, salt and pepper  before–this softens the peppers and makes it easier to eat.  Roasted peppers smell delicious too!!! Fill the soft, roasted shells with leftover rice and beef mixture,  top with cheese and breadcrumbs, broil, and dinner is ready !!!

 

Mexican, Quick Dinner, Savory

Super Speedy Stuffed Peppers

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This is a great recipe for when you are trying to clean out your fridge.  With just a few ingredients you can put dinner on the table in a snap!

Ingredients:

1/2 pound ground meat/poultry ( I had beef)

1 can of corn

2 medium-sized bell peppers ( I actually had 1 whole one and a half )

1/2 yellow onion, diced.

Taco sauce of your choice

Garlic powder, Chilli powder, oregano, salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup shredded mexican blend cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs

oil for cooking

Method:

Heat oil in a skillet and saute onions and beef with browned

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Add the seasonings and corn and cook till the raw smell of the seasonings go away.

Add the taco sauce, about 1/4 -1/2 cup, stir in and take off heat.  The sauce acts as a binder, so add as much as you want.  The amount will vary based on the amount of fat that comes out of your filling of choice.  For example, lean ground turkey might need more sauce than a 80-20 ground beef mixture.  if you do not have taco sauce, you can use salsa.

Allow the filling to cool

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs together and set aside.

Cut the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds to create a cavity that you can fill.  I like to cut it length-wise.

Fill the peppers with the meat and corn mixture and top with the cheese and bread crumbs

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Place peppers in a baking dish and drizzle a little bit of oil on the top.

 

Bake for 20 mins till golden brown

Serve hot, with a knife and fork.  It will get messy !IMG_1953

Dinner, Meat, Moroccan, Stew

Beef and Sweet Potato Harissa

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As the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends”.  For this recipe, my “friend” was store bought Harissa Simmer sauce.  I keep reading about Harissa in magazines and have always wanted to try it.  However, this past weekend, I was in the mood for something delicious and fast.  So, I used the simmer sauce.  But I did doctor it up.  It turned out delicious! I mean, really delicious! MIND-BLOWING DELICIOUS!  Here is what you will need.

Ingredients:

1.5lbs stew beef

2 sweet potatoes, diced

1 large red onion, diced into large chunks

1 tomato, diced

1 can of red kidney beans

1 packet of Harissa simmer sauce ( I used Saffron Road)

2 tsp of cinnamon

2 tbsp of olive oil

salt, pepper and chilli flakes to taste.

2 tbsp of chopped scallions

Lime wedges for serving (optional)

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Method:

Brown the meat in oil and set aside.

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Add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, onions, salt pepper and cinnamon and cook till vegetables soften.

Add the meat, beans and pour in the sauce.  I filled the pouch with water to rinse off every last bit of the sauce and poured it into the pot.

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Simmer on medium high heat for 30 40 mins, till meat and vegetables and fork tender. Add scallions at the very end and take off heat.

Serve hot with polenta or couscous.

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Classics, Comfort food

Meat Pies

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Happy New Year! It has been a while since I have posted.  Life in graduate school can be all-consuming and with the holidays and traveling back to India, I have hardly been cooking or eating right.  So, I will try to be better this year and what better way to start off the year with a delicious, savory and very English Meat Pie.  The recipe is pretty straightforward.  It is rich and comforting and pairs perfectly with Downton Abbey or Sherlock! Enjoy a night on British teli with this recipe!

Ingredients:

1.5lbs of cubed stew meat

0.5 tbsp of minced garlic

1 cup diced onions

1 cup chopped mushrooms

0.5 cups of chopped carrots

0.5 cups of chopped red-skinned potatoes

1 cup chicken broth

Winter herbs of your choice, I used a spice blend from Raw Spicebar–use what you like! (Thyme, rosemary sage etc)

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Salt and Pepper to taste

2 tbsp of olive oil

3 rolls of store-bought pie crust

Method:

Heat olive oil in a pot and brown meat in batches till dark brown. Set aside.

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In the same pot add onions, garlic, mushrooms, carrots and potatoes and saute for 10mins till the vegetables start to soften.  The key here is to make sure the vegetables are fine chopped and relatively the same size.

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Add salt, peppers, herb mix and saute for another 5-10mins

Put back the meat and add the chicken stock.

Simmer till meat is tender and the filling has a thick consistency.  You do not want too much liquid since it will make for a wet and soggy pie–nobody wants that!

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Cool filling completely.

Take a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan and grease with cooking spray.

Cut out pie crust to fit into the muffin pan and leave a little bit of an overhang.

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Spoon in a generous amount of the meat filling.

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Cover with another round of cut pie dough and crimp the edges to seal thoroughly. Cut a slit in the top crust so that the steam can escape.

Bake in a 375F pre-heated oven for 45-6omins till crust is golden

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Serve hot !!!

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Classics, Comfort food, Dinner, Meat, Stew

Beef Short Ribs

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Hello readers ! It has been quite a while since I have posted.  The last few months have been a whirlwind with the holidays and my travel back home to India.  It took me a while to settle back into the pace pf things and I realized that I had stopped cooking for myself and had reverted back to the old habit of eating caned soup and vending machine granola bars ! The very thing I wanted to avoid and which is why I started writing this blog !!!!!!  Anyway ! I am back and here with our Valentine’s Day meal ! Nothing says love like a big bowl of rich beef stew !  Thank you Ina Garten for the recipe !

Ingredients

6 beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil
1 small fennel, fronds, stems, and core removed, large-diced
1 leek, cleaned and large-diced, white part only
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (2 onions)
4 cups large-diced celery (6 large stalks)
2 carrots, peeled and large-diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (750-ml) bottle Cotes du Rhone or other dry red wine
Fresh rosemary sprigs
Fresh thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 cups beef stock
Directions

Season short ribs with salt and pepper and fry in a large Dutch oven till  golden brown and set aside.

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In the remaining oil add the fennel, leek, onion, celery and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and wine, bring to a boil and cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Tie the rosemary and thyme together with kitchen twine and add to the pot.IMG_0568

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Place the roasted ribs on top of the vegetables in the Dutch oven and add the brown sugar and beef stock. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover the Dutch oven and cook for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

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Carefully remove the short ribs from the pot and set aside. Discard the herbs and skim the excess fat. Cook the vegetables and sauce over medium heat for 20 minutes, until reduced. Put the ribs back into the pot and heat through. Serve with the vegetables and sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classics, Comfort food

Slow-cooker Goulash

Also known as Hungarian Paprikash, this is a great variation to your traditional beef stew.  The interesting part of this recipe is that I got it from “The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” !!!! Somebody took the time to go through the series and figure out what the characters ate, and then they archived them into a book.  I got it as a birthday present last year.  This was the first recipe I was made from the book and it was a hit !  This time around, I made it in a slow cooker and it worked just as well.  Try this recipe on the next cold, damp, rainy day.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp of olive oil

2 pounds of stew meat (beef)

1 onion, finely chopped

2 ribs of celery, finely chopped

2, 14 oz cans of chicken stock

1, 10 oz package of mushrooms, chopped

3 Tbsp of paprika (or more if needed)

1 sweet red pepper, seeded and chopped

3 Tbsp of tomato paste

1/2 cup sour cream (I used greek yogurt instead)

salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

In 1 Tbsp of oil, brown the beef in batches till golden brown and crusty on the outside.  Set aside.

Heat remaining oil in a pan, and saute the celery, onions, paprika and tomato paste.

Add the beef and onion, celery mixture to the slow-cooker and cover with chicken stalk.  Cook on high for about 3 hrs.

After 3hrs, add the peppers and mushrooms to the stew.  Cook for another 2 hrs or till the meat falls apart.

At this point, take some of the stew liquid and use it to thin out the greek yogurt.  Add the slurry back to the stew.  Stir, adjust salt, paprika and pepper and simmer for another 30mins.

Serve hot with crusty bread or egg noodles.