Friday, June 23, 2017

American Gyros – Mystery Meat Demystified

If you’re from Greece, you’re probably pretty confused right now, and wondering why I’m calling this gyros. There, pork and chicken are used, in non-ground form, and as the meat turns slowly over a fire, the cooked, caramelized surface is shaved off into thin slices. 

It’s amazing stuff, but believe it or not, I prefer this Americanized “mystery meat” approach, which uses ground lamb and/or beef. The spices are similar, but the texture is totally different, and for me, more interesting. I can eat fresh, identifiable meat anytime, so when I’m in the mood for gyros, I want the stuff you can only get from certain street vendors. Of course, since the meat is ground, you’re taking their word for which specific animals made the ultimate sacrifice, which is why this stuff became affectionately known as “mystery meat.”

This style is perfect for making ahead of time. Once it’s chilled, and sliced, all you need to do is brown it in a pan, and find some flatbread to roll it up in. Preferably, that would be homemade Lebanese mountain bread, which I will attempt to show you in the near future. In the meantime, your favorite pita will do, just as long as you don’t forget to make some tzatziki. I really hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 8 portions:
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon freshly minced rosemary
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste (you can cook a small piece to test)
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons bread crumb
- Cook at 350 F. for 45 minutes, or until an internal temp of 160 F.
-- Note: to make the pickled red onions, simply slice them about 1/8-inch thick, and cover with red wine vinegar for a few hours, or overnight. They will turn into the beautifully colored garnish seen herein.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Brutus Salad – Watch Your Back, Caesar!

I don’t post a lot of salad videos, since, other than the dressing recipe, what I’m I going to teach you? Most people are pretty good when it comes to tossing things in a bowl, but I made an exception for what I’m calling a “Brutus.”

I discovered this salad at a great restaurant in Healdsburg, called Willis’s Seafood, where it was definitely not called a “Brutus,” but simply described as a, Little Gem Salad, Dijon Vinaigrette, Fuji Apples, Aged White Cheddar, Fresh Herbs, Fried Pecans.” It sounded amazing, and tasted even better.

It was so good, I joked that it could replace the Caesar as America’s favorite tossed salad, and a few beers later, the idea to call it the “Brutus” was born. I’m explaining this not only to give credit, where credit’s due, but also to make clear it has nothing to do with politics. Yes, nothing to do with it. Nothing at all.

Normally, I would tell you to add whatever you want to this salad, but not this time. Please make it exactly as shown. Having said that, you’ll of course have to adjust the dressing to your taste, but you already knew that. I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
For the dressing:
1/4 cup real French Dijon mustard
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper
cayenne to taste
- the dressing should be sharp and acidic, but please adjust to your taste
For the salad:
4 hearts of romaine, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
2 ounces extra-sharp aged cheddar
1 apple, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons dill sprigs, chopped
3/4 cup pecan halves, toasted in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, seasoned with salt and 1 teaspoon of white sugar

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Butcher's Steak – Too Good to Sell?

This great steak is considered something of a butcher shop “secret,” but not because they’re selfish, and can’t stand the thought of you being happy. It’s just an odd looking cut, which requires a specific trimming technique to remove one of the toughest pieces of connective tissue on the entire animal.

Combine that with the fact that there’s only one per cow, and you have something that’s a little tricky to sell, although that seems to be changing a bit. This steak has become popular on restaurant menus, going by the name, “hanger steak,” and that’s led to it being carried in some of your finer butcher shops.

Even though it takes a little bit of time, the trimming is pretty simple, and probably easier than I made it look. Carefully trim away any of the tough-feeling membranes on the surface, and divide in half lengthwise, along the center connective tissue. Once that’s cut away, you’re pretty much done, other than deciding how to cook it.

Butcher’s steak is great in a pan, under the broiler, and of course, on the grill. It takes to marinades wonderfully, and can sub in for any cut of steak in any recipe. It’s not only tender, and affordable, but also extremely beefy.

This is probably the most strongly flavored steak cut, and some even describe it as having a subtle gaminess, although I think that’s a bit much. There’s only one way to know for sure, so I really do hope you give this a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
1 whole butcher’s steak aka hanger steak, about 2 pounds
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon clarified butter
For the sauce:
2/3 cup chicken broth to deglaze pan
juices from resting steaks
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste
2 tablespoon cold butter, cut in cubes
salt to taste

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Muhammara (Roasted Pepper & Walnut Spread) – Lebanese Adjacent

This muhammara video was inspired by a request we received for a Lebanese recipe. Not knowing any off the top of my head, I asked for suggestions, and this amazing red pepper walnut spread was nominated by several people. The only problem is, it’s actually a Syrian recipe.

Nevertheless, it’s apparently very popular in Lebanon, as well as across the rest of the Mideast, and once you taste it, you’ll understand why. Like I said in the intro, this may be the most delicious thing you’re not currently eating.

All great dips and spreads should be addictive, but there’s something very special about how this beckons you back for more, and more, even after you’re being stared at by the other guests. Let them enjoy their superior will power – we’ll continue to enjoy the muhammara.

You'll find pomegranate molasses at any Middle Eastern grocery store, or online, but if you can’t, you can make it by reducing pomegranate juice (Google for more details). Or, maybe substitute with some honey for the sweetness, and little extra lemon for the tartness. Either way, I really hope you give this amazing muhammara a try soon. Enjoy!

* Bell Pepper Buying Note: Sometimes bell peppers have large seed pods which makes them very heavy, and therefor very expensive. Depending on the season, a jar of roasted peppers will actually be cheaper than two fresh peppers. I usually weigh them at the store, do the math, and then make the fresh/jarred call.


Ingredients for 6 portions:
1 cup roughly chopped fire-roasted red peppers (peeled, seeded)
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 1/4 cup raw walnut halves
1/3 to 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon Allepo or other red pepper flakes
Italian parsley, chopped walnuts, and pepper flakes to garnish