Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lamb Meatball Stuffed Mushrooms with Tzatziki Sauce

Think of this as a 2-for-1 treat; some scrumptious Lamb-Stuffed 'Shrooms to serve as an appetizer or light supper...

Photo: Lamb Meatball Stuffed Mushrooms topped with Tzatziki Sauce and plated on a bed of balsamic-braised kale a dozen or so little Lamb Meatballs for a lunch plate on another day, tasty on their own or delicious stuffed in a warm pita. 

Photo: Flavorful Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce

Rummaging through the fridge I found some plump stuffing mushrooms, ground lamb, and bunches of several fresh herbs. Aha! meatballs and meatball-stuffed 'shrooms! Both dishes came from a single one-pound package of ground lamb. That worked for me, big time, since neither of us felt any major hunger pangs that evening and I'm a huge fan of cooking ahead whenever possible. 

Appetizers for dinner sounded perfect, knowing that we could fill up on ice cream and cookies for dessert if we were hungry later. Never happened! The 'shrooms were of medium size, but we were stuffed after eating four apiece and their bed of braised kale.

I turned to my recipe for Lamb Kofta, but ended up substituting a few herbs and omitting capers in order to work with items already at hand. After mixing the ingredients and forming eight small meatballs, lightly packed, just large enough to fill the cavities of the mushrooms, there was still enough filling left to shape a generous dozen+ small meatballs. Win!

Of course I didn't bother to write down the exact ingredients or step-by-step directions, but here's a close approximation of the process. 

 Lamb Meatball Stuffed Mushrooms

Meat Mixture:
1 pound ground lamb
scant 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 teaspoons mint paste (Gourmet Garden)
2 heaping tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
2 teaspoons garlic paste (Gourmet Garden)
3 tablespoons grated onion
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper  
Stems from the fresh mushrooms, minced

8-10 medium cremini mushrooms, cleaned & stemmed (number depends on size)
Kale, braised and tossed with balsamic vinegar (optional)

Tzatziki Sauce (see below)

Mix the meatball ingredients thoroughly by hand, careful not to overwork the mixture or it will be tough. (I read that somewhere.) 

For the Stuffed Mushrooms:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
  2. Use a small cookie scoop or damp hands to form lightly packed small meatballs, just large enough to fill the cavities of the mushrooms when mounded slightly.
  3. Arrange the stuffed 'shrooms in a lightly oiled pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until you see a few crispy, browned bits and the lamb is just faintly pink underneath. 
  4. Serve atop a bed of braised kale - topped with tzatziki sauce - or perhaps in individual Asian soup spoons for party presentation.   

For the Meatballs:
  1. Heat a cast iron or other heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Use a small cookie scoop or damp hands to form the remaining meat mixture into small, round balls.
  3. Place in the hot pan and brown on all sides.
  4. Lower the heat to medium and lid the skillet, cooking a bit longer until the lamb is just done, only faintly pink in the middle, usually less than 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from the skillet and serve with a side of tzatziki sauce - OR, if you can't resist, remove meatballs from the skillet, swirl some sour cream into the pan juices for a sauce to pour over the meatballs. 

Tzatziki Sauce
Makes 1 ¾ cups

1 English cucumber, peeled
1 TB kosher salt
1 cup Greek yogurt (plain)
1 TB lemon juice
2 TB lemon zest
1 TB fresh mint, chopped or 1 tsp dried mint
1 ½ TB fresh dill, chopped or ½ tsp dried dill
1 clove garlic, minced & mashed
1 green onion, finely chopped
Salt (optional)  and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater and place in a strainer; add salt and toss gently. Place the strainer over a bowl and let it sit for at least 10 to 15 minutes (or more). You will be amazed at the quantity of liquid that drains out! 
  2. Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly under cold water; drain and wring out in a clean tea towel to remove as much moisture as possible without reducing the cukes to moosh. 
  3. Place cukes and all other ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Sample and adjust to taste. 
The flavors will blend and intensify as they sit. The sauce will keep overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator, but is best used within a day or two. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Giddy Over This Sweet Soy Glaze

...on Grilled Bok Choy.

We're grilling' and chilling' this week, cooking outside as we relax and enjoy the late summer sunshine and warm weather. The old charcoal grill hasn't seen much action since we switched allegiance to a newer gas grill, but it's large surface was perfect to hold three wide pork chops and some large bok choy. (Hah! autospellcheck really wanted to substitute "book toy" for bok choy... more than once.)

Baby bok choy had been the lead item on my produce shopping list, but our local grocery didn't have any. None. Not one. How can you not stock that cute little Asian cabbage in Seattle, a city with a significant Asian population?! I settled for the larger variety of bok choy... much larger, in fact. Now what? Grilled bok choy by itself didn't hold much flavor appeal, but oh! my! the many sauces and glazes I found online were beyond tempting. Which one to try?

I went with a Kenjii Lopez-Alt recipe found on SeriousEats: Grilled Bok Choy with Sweet Soy Glaze. Kenjii's recipes never disappoint, and his accompanying posts typically include interesting factoids and/or useful tutorials. The posted version called for baby bok choy, but the size difference didn't seem to matter. Preparation was simple and the usual veggie grilling steps applied:
  • slice lengthwise
  • lightly coat with oil, 
  • season, at least with salt and pepper,
  • grill until char marks appear and veggies soften
Results? That soy/sake/seasonings reduction would make cardboard taste terrific... ok, that might be a slight exaggeration but it was amazingly better than anticipated considering the simple ingredient list. The ginger and soy flavors were strongly taste forward; sweet, but not cloyingly sweet. Asian in character, but easy to adapt and substitute ingredients to adjust to individual taste preferences. Myself, I'm a huge fan of the original, though a hint of anise does sound intriguingly tempting.

The glaze was intended for the bok choy, but we slathered it onto the grilled Asian-marinated pork chops, drizzled it over Jasmine brown rice, and even slurped some off spoons. Jars of this reduction will become a standard go-to item, stored on a fridge shelf and ready for action throughout the weeks to come. You really need to try it. Soon. As for the big bok choy, I can recommend grilling it... just as long as you have a flavorful, assertive Asian sauce to drizzle over its charred surface. 

Grilled Bok Choy with a Sweet Soy Glaze
recipe from SeriousEats (link)

For the Glaze

Use a 1:2:2 ratio of soy sauce, sake, and white sugar
   For example: 
        1/2 cup lite soy sauce
     1 cup sake (or dry vermouth, dry sherry or mirin)
     1 cup sugar (use less sugar if you substitute mirin for the sake)

1-inch chunk of fresh ginger, chopped into coins
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 scallions, green and white parts, chopped

bok choy, cleaned, dried, and split in half lengthwise
olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine the glaze ingredients, soy sauce through scallions, in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat; stir until the sugar dissolves. Then lower the heat and cook at a low simmer until the sauce is syrupy and reduced to about 1/2 cup. This will take about 15-20 minutes. Discard the ginger; set aside. 
  2. Prepare the grill, heating the charcoal until it is covered in gray ash. Rearrange the briquets so one end of the grill is hotter than the other. 
  3. Brush the cut bok choy with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on the hot end of the grill and cook briefly to lightly char. Turn over and cook until second side is charred. Move to the cooler end of the grill; cover and continue cooking for several minutes until the bok choy is softened but still offers a light crisp bite, roughly 1 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a large plate; either drizzle with the sauce or pour the sauce into a small pitcher and serve alongside.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dining In, Dining Out

Dining In...

Every year it seems the end of the cruise arrives too soon. We still have unexplored territory to investigate, wildlife to photograph, seafood to catch... Nevertheless, I appreciate having some final days/weeks in town at the dock. Tied up in our usual winter moorage slip we have time to clean and reorganize the boat, time to work on several of the smaller boat projects that remain on the never-ending To-Do List, and time to grab a few hours here and there to relax and visit with local friends. It's an enjoyable way to transition between life afloat and life ashore.

Dockside socializing is more about connecting with people and less about fussing over food, so this week I relied on some favorite old recipes choosing familiar dishes that are easy to prepare and tasty enough to garner a few compliments for the cook, but don't require spending long hours in a hot galley during hot summer weather. Win! The meals were good, and reconnecting with friends was a welcome treat. 

Warm Summer Night Menu for an early dinner aboard

Guacamole and Lime Tortilla Chips (no photo)

Puff Pastry Cheese Straws

Greens with Potato Salad

and Fresh Corn Kernels with Butter, Lime, Parmesan and Basil Shreds (no photo yet)

Broiled Nutty Nectarines with Greek Yogurt

Friends are always welcome aboard, not just at dinnertime. Friend G occasionally joins us for breakfast, arriving by boat for coffee and sourdough pancakes before heading uphill to the office. Last week I changed up the menu and served a couple of my non-traditional favorites. Dessert for breakfast? why not when it's fruit? Cheese grits and sausage? Mmmmm, I love cheese grits for any meal!

Weekday Early-Morning Breakfast

Dining Out...

We often meet J and D at a local restaurant to celebrate summer birthdays and anniversaries. For years a local sushi spot drew us for every occasion, but now we head to Imagine Thai Food for special events... or any time we crave amazingly good Thai food. We have relished every dish we have tasted so far, and enjoy visiting with the husband-and-wife team that operate this small gem of a restaurant. Impeccably fresh ingredients, sauces made in-house, layers of flavor accented with a zing of heat, each dish beautifully plated - what's not to love?! Most recently we ordered...

Choo Chee Goong
Stir fried prawns, in a red curry coconut milk sauce, carrots, green beans, peas, bell peppers & served with rice. 

Pad Thai Goong
Stir fry rice noodles in a tamarind sauce, with chicken, prawns, tofu, egg, bean sprouts, chives, herbs, lemon & crushed peanuts. 

Thai Ice Tea and Singha beer

...and the dessert that was so tempting that we ate it all before I thought to take any photos. Yes, it was that good!

 Guay Tord Ice Cream (no photo)
Deep fried bananas & coconut, topped with vanilla ice cream and covered with home-made caramel & toasted coconut. 

Now it's time to get creative with family meals and use up more of the fresh ingredients I can't take back across the border into the U.S. Meals are often... interesting... at the end of a cruise.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

More Views From the Galley

August 2015
Welcome to my galley as we cruise in SE Alaska, most recently between Sitka and Petersburg. The views from the galley reflect change. Most noticeable is the change in weather, moving from unusually warm and sunny days to those more typical in SE Alaska - cool, gray and damp. There are some positive sides to this cooling trend. Many people and some small settlements rely on catchment for their water supply, and the recent dry stretch has been a challenging problem for them. Returning salmon require a substantial stream or river outflow before they will run upstream to spawn, so fish and fishermen alike welcome the rain. Myself, I don’t mind viewing the world through a misty filter, bathed in an amazing assortment of soft gray tones… for a week or two anyway. My camera isn’t quite so fond of the moisture.

Berry production certainly benefitted from Alaska’s long hours of summer daylight and several months of sunny weather. We ate berries by the handful, by the bowlful, by the bucketful; blackberries, multicolored salmon berries, huckleberries and blueberries. Here’s a caution to share before someone is tempted to nibble while berrypicking: huckleberries and blueberries may contain protein! I’ve learned to toss my harvested berries into a sink full of water after picking. Tiny green worms will wiggle and wriggle their way out of many of the ripe berries, making it easy to separate fruit from critters once they’re all submerged.

Our July onboard boat guest has flown home, but this photo of her scrumptious hostess gift remains. We ate all of the other chocolates before I remembered to grab a photo! Sinfully rich dark chocolate… toasted almonds… buttery caramel… oh my! Need I say more, other than “Thanks, Laci.”?!

Two other food gifts paired perfectly this month. This freshly-baked round of Adele’s Norwegian Rye Bread, flavored with orange zest and fennel, is our newest favorite loaf, scrumptious plain or toasted. Add a dollop of tangy, citrusy sweetness from Tanya’s homemade Yuma Orange Marmalade and it’s a heavenly slice. Alaskan Bread and Arizona Marmalade didn’t last long in this galley – I need these recipes, girlfriends. Thank you, Adele and Tanya, we loved every single bite!

Two people need all of those mugs? Well, yes we do. When friends visit the galley it helps to have different designs available to keep straight which mug belongs to which person… just don’t touch that blue salmon mug! It’s always mine -- I set the galley rules and some days I just don’t need one more challenge.  

A recent addition to boat cookware has performed admirably on the new cooktop. This heavy aluminum griddle heats more evenly than expected, nearly eliminating the hot spots and cold corners of previous skillets and electric fry pans. Fluffy sourdough pancakes and thin Swedish pancakes never looked or tasted better. An unexpected bonus has been the thawing feature; solidly frozen steaks, chops and fillets defrost in much less time when set atop the griddle instead of on the counter. Something about heat transfer, or rate of transfer, or temperature equalization… or maybe it’s just magic. Whatever the scientific explanation, I like it.

The herb garden fights for survival against heavy odds. Whiteflies took an early toll, wiping out indoor basil and mint and outdoor oregano and chives. Birds pecked away at something and uprooted the Italian parsley. Now the rains threaten to wash out sage, savory and replanted oregano. Rosemary continues to sulk, and remains the same size it was months ago. Only the heliotrope thrives in any weather, somehow repelling insects and destructive birds. Too bad the hummingbirds seem to have disappeared now that the rains have returned.    

Early in the morning, when I’m not cooking or baking or gazing out the galley windows, you might find me sipping a cup of Jasmine green tea and knitting away on the latest project. This month it has been colorful wool socks. With the current 50ish degree days, I won’t have to wait for winter to wear this latest pair!

I ‘m still working on new ways to cook our salmon catch. There’s always a batch of lox underway in the galley, but dinners invite more creativity. The latest new preparation was a savory Salmon roasted with Puttanesca Sauce and served on pasta. link It may be  is a weird-sounding combination but was actually quite delicious. The sauce and seafood pairing was tasty enough to try it again, with salmon and with halibut. Leftover salmon, sauce and pasta make a scrumptious frittata as well. Definition of scrumptious: the Capt. requested I make it again.

And… one last photo from this month that I couldn’t resist sharing… just because. Don’t you love the expression on this youngster, perhaps last year’s grizzly cub? Do you suppose he ever tires of salmon? He doesn’t look too eager to share his just-caught salmon, or to pose for the camera. (Safety note: I was safely distant, well up the bank on the opposite side of the stream, and used a long camera lens to get this shot and many others. link I don’t get too close to any bear, ever!)

Thanks for joining me for a peek In My Galley this month, and a big thank you to Celia at FigJamandLimeCordial who organizes this monthly roundup of visits to kitchens all over the globe. Drop by for a visit. You meet such interesting people in busy kitchens, and every month the cast of characters changes a bit.

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