Lamb Tagine with Potatoes and Chickpeas

Lamb with Potatoes and Chickpeas
One of the hardest parts about giving up six main food groups and items for baby A (she has protein digestion issues so I’m not eating dairy, wheat, eggs, fish, soy or peanuts) is finding quick, easy weeknight meals. Through a lot of trial and error, J and I have learned that some meals that look easy aren’t and some that look time-consuming are actually simple. This is a simple one. We’d put off making Lamb Tagine with Potatoes and Chickpeas from Williams Sonoma because it looked complicated. We were throughly surprised to learn it was easy and perfect for a busy weeknight.

Ingredients:
3 teaspoons cumin seeds (we used ground)
3 teaspoons coriander seeds (we used ground)
3/4 teaspoons peppercorns (we used ground black pepper)
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika (we used Hungarian)
1 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt, plus more, to taste (we used Kosher)
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 lb. boneless leg of lamb, cut into 1-inch cubes (we just used stew lamb, which was perfectly sized)
1 yellow onion, julienned
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup water
1/2 lb. small Yukon Gold potatoes, halved (we ended up using a pound and it was perfect!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
In a small fry pan over medium-low heat, toast the cumin and coriander seeds, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder, add the peppercorns, paprika, ginger and the 2 tsp. salt and grind until well combined. Set aside. If using ground, skip the grinding step and just combine in a small bowl. Mix with a fork.

In a tagine over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil until almost smoking. Working in batches, brown the lamb on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. If you don’t have a tagine, we used our most favorite pasta pot.

Add the remaining oil and the onion to the tagine or pot, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the spice mixture, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is caramelized, about 2 more minutes. Add the lamb, water, potatoes and the 1/4 cup cilantro and bring to a simmer. Cover the tagine or pot and adjust the heat so the mixture gently simmers. Cook for 45 minutes, then add the chickpeas and lemon juice. Continue cooking until the lamb is tender, about 45 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Garnish with cilantro and serve. Accompany with couscous or rice. Serves 4 to 6.

My opinion:
I LOVE this dish. It’s flavorful and warming and just delicious. It’s as good cold as it is right from the stove.

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Mexican Black Bean Soup with Sausage Recipe

Mexican Black Bean Soup with Sausage
It’s been a roller coaster of spring-like temperatures and freezing, regular February temperatures around here the last few weeks. That plus the lovely no six diet (no: dairy, wheat,eggs, fish, soy or peanuts) diet I’m on to help baby A’s digestive issues means we’ve had to get very creative with dinners. Luckily for me, J has taken the changes to our culinary repertoire in stride and has come up with a lot of alternatives to our favorite dishes. He found this lovely one from Food and Wine magazine.  Since I was baby A wrangling, I only got a picture of the finished product.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped (we used about 3 tablespoons of minced garlic, but we like garlic a lot)
1 canned chipotle chile, seeded and finely chopped (since we didn’t have this on hand, we used 1 teaspoon ground chipotle)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Two 15-ounce cans black beans, drained
3 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
3/4 pound smoky cooked sausage, such as andouille or kielbasa, thinly sliced (we just went with two andouille)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for garnish
2 tablespoons very finely chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Sour cream for serving (we left this out because it’s dairy)

Directions:
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the chipotle or ground chipotle, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the black beans and chicken stock and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Using a potato masher, coarsely crush some of the beans (we skipped this step).  Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage to the beans. Then add the lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for 2 minutes to allow the flavors to blend, or longer if you’d like! Ladle the soup into bowls and serve, passing the sour cream and lime wedges separately.

My opinion:
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this ended up being very filling and just the right amount of heat to warm me from the inside. It’s absolutely a soup we will add to the rotation, even once we (hopefully!) can start adding the no items back to my diet.

Thai Beef Salad

Thai Beef Salad
Summer finally arrived about a week ago and it’s been too hot to cook. Too hot for heavy meals and just generally too hot. My favorite thing about this dish adapted from this Shape.com recipe is it’s served chilled and for a light dinner, it is really filling.

Ingredients:
Well-marbled New York steak or a skirt steak, grilled (we broiled and pan-seared a couple of times when it was too hot to grill) to your liking, but preferably no more than medium rare
1 small red onion, sliced into skinny wedges
1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped, no stems
Large handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or 1/2 vine-ripened tomatoes cut into wedges)
1 green pepper, sliced thin
2 limes (or about 1/4 to 1/3 cup lime juice)
1 tablespoon brown sugar (you may need more. Note: the original recipe called for palm sugar, but we’ve had a hard time finding it)
1.5 tablespoon fish sauce
Thai chili powder to taste (we found a blend at Penzy’s Spices that we love for this dish – Bangkok blend)

Directions:
Grill, pan-sear or broil the meal as directed above and slice into thin strips after allowing to rest at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Put the brown sugar in a medium-sized mixing bowl, add some of the lime juice and mush into a thick liquid form. Add the rest of the lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar.
When the steak has cooled, Add it to the sauce mixture. Toss with your hands to incorporate all over the steak. Add the rest of the veggies, toss and taste. Tasting as you go is the most important part. Add more fish sauce if it needs more salt, or more sugar if it is to lime-y.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so to let the flavors meld. Then serve on a bed of lettuce and garnish cilantro.

My opinion:
You can add the cilantro into the sauce mixture, just give it a rough chop. If you want to quick sautee your veggies in peanut oil (or your favorite cooking oil), feel free it adds another layer of flavor. This is the perfect dish for a hot summer evening.

Avocado Chicken Salad

Avocado Chicken Salad

There’s a dish at one of the best places to eat in town, but unfortunately it is only on the spring and summer menu, which isn’t out yet. With the extra warm weather this weekend, we decided to try our hand at making the same dish at home. We seriously lucked out. With a few modifications, this recipe is a near exact copy and was amazing.

Ingredients:
4 avocados, pitted and removed from skin
1/2 cup diced red onion (we used white because it’s what we had on hand)
1 celery stalk, diced
juice from 1 lime (about 3 tablespoons, feel free to add a bit more!)
1/4 cup cilantro (we left this out, but it would have been a great addition)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (feel free to use a bit more)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups cooked shredded chicken (we used three cooked chicken breasts. Oven roasted with chili lime seasoning)
8 slices sourdough bread (we used a pre-sliced loaf of french bread)

Directions:
Roast the chicken in the oven at 375 degrees, spiced with your favorite Mexican seasoning, we like chili lime. Cook at least 30 minutes or until cooked through. Dice the onions and the celery in a food processor. When the chicken is cooked and slightly cooled, shred it with a fork or in the food processor. If you prefer your chicken salad a bit chunky, feel free to dice it instead. We added the shredded chicken to the food processor and then added the avocados and spices. If you prefer it a bit chunky, just mix everything together in a bowl. Taste and add lime juice and salt as needed. When ready to eat, toast the bread. We brushed both sides with olive oil and toasted each side until browned.

My opinion:
I was starving, so we didn’t wait for this to chill. In the summer, we will definitely chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes. Also, next time we’ll add a bit more cumin and maybe some more lime juice. This would be equally delicious with cucumber slices and bread. If you’d like it a little spicier, feel free to add a jalapeño. We will probably add some serranos from the garden this summer.

 

p.s. Summer 2016 update: Our toddler adores this dish. we just have to shred the chicken instead of cutting it into chunks and she gobbles it up! 

Mango Salsa

Mango salsaWatching the Super Bowl also means eating chips and dip. But it’s winter and fresh salsa in the winter is usually pretty disappointing. But when the new grocery store in town had mangos on sale for 19 cents each, I jumped at the chance to have just a little taste of summer. C made up this amazingly refreshing mango salsa. As we were eating it, we decided it would also be delicious on fish tacos, salmon, pork and of course tortilla chips. It was super easy to make.

Ingredients:
2 ripe mangos, diced (smaller is better. And keep the pit!)
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 roma tomato, diced
1 serrano chili pepper, diced fine
2 tablespoons garlic (more or less to your taste)
1 red onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 lime (for juice)
torn cilantro for garnish

Directions:
Dice all ingredients into roughly the same size. This part is important because if the mango chunks are too big, they’ll fall off the chip. Or worse, break the chip. Add ingredients to a bowl. Mix with a spoon. Squeeze the juice from the mango pit into the bowl. Feel free to use the side of a metal spoon to scrape off the fruit attached to the pit. Squeeze the lime juice. Mix again. Add salt and pepper, tasting in between. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately, or chill and serve later.

My opinion:
As noted above, usually fresh salsas made in the winter lack flavor, maybe it’s because we let the mangos get really ripe, but this was full of flavor and very tasty. Don’t be afraid to try it on something other than tortilla chips!