What’s for dinner?

Salmon Burgers

I really enjoy salmon burgers and usually keep some of the Whole Foods frozen variety in the fridge for quick dinner. I decided to try making my own and used the recipe from Cooking Light for Hoisin Glazed Salmon Burgers with Pickled Cucumber.

These take just minutes longer than a frozen burger and they were really tasty. I enjoyed the flavors with the quick pickled cucumber and soy and hoisin.

I make breadcrumbs out of whatever leftover bread we have and keep them in the freezer so I just used those instead of panko. We ended up using 2 egg whites to get the consistency we wanted for the burgers but other than that I stuck pretty true to the recipe.

If you have the option, I would get the folks at the fish counter to skin the fish for you. That was a little more difficult than I expected. Glad Neal stepped in and finished that task!


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Spicy Basil Chicken

The basil is coming in in full force this time of year! It grows best when you cut from it so it’s good to have lots of basil options for dinner. When you cut a bunch of basil and bring it in the best way to store it is in the windowsill in water. You may find you actually grow roots and you could replant some of it if you wanted!

We tried this Spicy Basil Chicken from Cooking Light recently. It was very good although not very spicy at all. That’s probably because we just used dried chillies instead of the sambal oelek that was recommended. I’ve never been able to find such before but just located it at the Indian grocery last week so we now have it on hand for future use.

I used onions instead of shallots and I did not add the garlic with the onion. My recipe pet peeve is when they call for garlic to be added way too early in a recipe. The garlic would be burnt to a crisp if you added it when they called for it and then cooked it for 13 minutes with the chicken.

drives. me. crazy.

So, cook your onions, add the chicken (which doesn’t take nearly 13 minutes to cook. keep an eye on it and cook until done) and then add the garlic. Cook for 30 or so seconds before adding the sauce. I was skeptical that this was enough sauce but I was pleasantly surprised that it was just perfect.

Serve over brown rice. We ate this with Chinese Long Beans and the flavors worked well together.

This recipe is a great example of knowing when to follow the recipe and when to make adjustments. Just because a recipe is published doesn’t mean it is error free nor does it mean it always utilizes the best methods. Recipes are guides, not rules 🙂


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Grilled Pizza

Most of us are not lucky enough to have a wood fired pizza oven in our home kitchen. However, if you have a charcoal grill you can get a great grilled pizza!

You’ll need to start with a very thin crust. In the past I’ve used a recipe from Cooks Illustrated that works well. We recently bought a premixed dough at the market that was from a local flour miller – Fresh Flour in Dayton, TN. The recipe called for the dough to make 1 crust but I rolled it out into 2 crusts. You don’t want something so thin that it will burn quickly but this is not the time for your thick crust pizza. Use whatever dough recipe you like, or buy a pre made dough and roll it out a bit more if needed.

While your crust is rising, prep all your toppings. You’ll want to precook anything as the pizza doesn’t spend enough time on the grill to really cook the toppings. We used garlic scape pesto instead of marinara sauce, onions, peppers, diced tomatoes, fontina cheese and sausage from Link 41 sausage.

Light your grill and allow it to get hot. When you are ready to put the dough on, move all the charcoal to one side and lay the dough on the opposite side.

Put the lid on and let cook for 4 minutes or so and then check it. The bottom is done when it starts to bubble and you can see nice brown grill marks.

Pull the dough off the grill and top the cooked side with your toppings. (try not to rip a chunk out of the side…)

Slide the pizza back on the grill and cook for another 4 minutes or so. If you know your grill cooks hot then certainly you want to be checking more frequently.

When the cheese is melted and the bottom is browned to your liking then slide the pizza off.

It’s nice to have an option to cook pizza that doesn’t require you to turn on the oven in the middle of summer!


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Dandelion and Goat Cheese Gratin

I’ve had this recipe for a Dandelion and Goat Cheese Gratin from Fine Cooking in my must try folder for several years. I’ve never made it because apparently dandelion greens are expensive! I’ve never seen them at the market and at Greenlife they are about $6/bunch.

I found dandelion greens at The Dekalb Market in Atlanta recently for $2/bunch so I finally pulled the recipe out to try. The recipe notes say that it would be a good side dish for lamb but I decided to actually add the lamb into the gratin for a one dish meal. If you aren’t adding meat to the gratin I would probably double the amount of greens I used as they cook down a lot.

Our lamb is from Sequatchie Cove Farm and the goat cheese is from Bonnie Blue Farm.

dandelion greens!

I tried a bite of the greens before they were cooked and they are bitter, bitter, bitter! Thankfully the bitterness is greatly tamed after cooking.

I used half and half instead of the heavy cream since that’s what I had in the fridge. I also added about double the amount of goat cheese called for because it just seemed right 🙂

If you are adding meat to the gratin, cook it first and then just mix it in the bowl with the chopped greens and cheese.


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Polenta Stuffed Chard

I really like Swiss Chard and I’m pretty sure it’s for reasons other than the gorgeous rainbow-colored stems. Pretty sure.

Signal Mountain Farms Swiss Chard

No matter why you eat it, chard is good for you and brightens up the kitchen. Especially on the messy, rainy night we made this Polenta Stuffed Swiss Chard that Neal heard on NPR the other day.

Polenta is similar to grits but it is yellow cornmeal and a more medium grind. You need to allow a bit of time for this recipe because the polenta needs to chill but the actual hands on time is pretty minimal.

Mushrooms seemed like a natural addition to this recipe so I re hydrated some shiitake mushrooms and used the mushroom water to make the polenta to increase the depth of flavor. Add the mushrooms in at the end of the cooking.

The recipe calls for removing the stems before pouring the boiling water over the chard. Next time I might wait and cut the stems out of the wilted chard as our chard tore a bit. Of course, that could be because I misread the recipe and actually boiled the leaves instead of just pouring the water over. 🙂

wrapping up packets of polenta was really quite fun!

Because our chard leaves tore we had to manipulate a few leaves together at times but it worked just fine.

so colorful!

I think we used more sauce to top the chard than originally called for but it seemed just right to me. I baked ours for 20 minutes instead of the 10 called for and skipped the broiler. The polenta is cold going into the oven and 10 minutes was just not enough time to heat it through.


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Lebanese Stuffed Peppers

We made these Lebanese Stuffed Peppers from Cooking Light recently. The recipe states that the traditional recipe uses ground lamb but they chose to use ground sirloin instead. We had ground lamb in the freezer and I tend to get frustrated with recipes that try to Americanize an ethnic dish too much so we used ground lamb from Sequatchie Cove Farm.  (Granted, there are some ingredients that you just can’t find locally and I’m not opposed to substitutions but ground lamb is pretty common these days).

These bell peppers are from Signal Mountain Farm.

Against my better judgement we followed the directions for microwaving the peppers before stuffing. I think this just really made them watery.  I think the best way to cook peppers before stuffing is to cook them in a dry, hot cast iron skillet. Turn them frequently so they brown on all sides. This gives you much better flavor.

I never have beef broth (because the only broth I have is what I make and beef bones don’t find their way into my kitchen too often). Normally I do have lamb broth but not tonight so I substituted veggie broth throughout the recipe. No need to use bland water when you have broth!

I initially didn’t realize that the lamb went into the peppers raw. I think that works much better than precooking the meat as I’ve done in the past. I’d advise basing the doneness on temperature, not just time however. We cooked our lamb peppers to 155 degrees. I’d take sirloin out at about 160 degrees.

The sauce cooks down a good bit so I ended up adding another cup of tomatoes to the pan. The flavors were still good and we had just the right amount of sauce.

Parsley is another thing that I never have. I see it called for a good bit but I just don’t care for it and therefore don’t keep it around. I don’t think we missed anything.

Overall I think they turned out well…


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Zucchini with Baked Eggs

I may have mentioned that I’m not a Food Network kind of girl. Other than Iron Chef I’ve not found much there that captures my attention and even Iron Chef can be a bit…much sometimes. However, I found myself flipping through Food Network magazine the other day while waiting somewhere and I came across this recipe that just looked so good! It takes a bit of prep work to prepare the zucchini but the actual hands on time is minimal. These lovely green and golden zucchini came from Signal Mountain Farm. I prefer the golden zucchini over the standard green. The flavor just seems better to me.

Start by grating the zucchini. I ended up using about 3 1/2 of these. Toss the grated zucchini with a tablespoon of salt and put in a colander to drain. It is amazing how much liquid will drain out of the zucchini! Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then press with a spoon to remove the last bit.

Cook the drained zucchini in the skillet with onion. I also added a bit of purple bell pepper – the first bell pepper I’ve had this year! (also from Signal Mountain Farm). As you cook the zucchini it will release even more water. Apparently zucchini are a persistent sort of vegetable. Drain this from the skillet as needed. You can add a bit of salt to taste but go sparingly. Remember that tablespoon of salt earlier? Yeah, it doesn’t all go away with the water. Also add a bit of grated nutmeg. Why would you buy powdered nutmeg when you can grate these cute things?

Once the zucchini has just started to brown remove from the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Spread the zucchini into an even layer in the skillet.  Then, use the back of a spoon to create 4 little wells in the zucchini. Crack an egg into each well and grate some Parmesan cheese over the surface. Bake at 350 until the eggs are set to your liking.


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5 Spice Salmon and Green Beans

I really try to avoid boiling vegetables. You lose so many nutrients and boiled vegetables tend to be so plain. (Peas and beans being the exception here). So, with all the green beans coming in now I’m challenged to find new ways to serve them. This is a Fine Cooking recipe that I especially like since it only uses 1 pan. The green beans here are from Signal Mountain Farm.

This recipe calls for Chinese 5 spice powder. You can certainly buy this at the store but I prefer to make it. You never know how long those spices have been sitting on the self losing flavor day by day. A spice grinder is really a must for the kitchen. Spices lose their flavor quickly so the more you can grind fresh, the better.

My 5 spice recipe came from this book: The book is gorgeous and has a wealth of information about every herb and spice. (trust me…you need this book!)

5 spice powder is fennel, star anise, cloves, red pepper, and cinnamon. Toss it all in a spice grinder and it’s done.

The marinade for this salmon is 5 spice powder, honey, soy sauce, and garlic. The best way to prepare garlic for a marinade is to grate the garlic. It creates a garlic pulp that basically disappears into the marinade. Also, the bits of garlic you get with chopping tend to burn when you cook your dish.

Measuring honey can be a pain trying to scrape all the sticky honey out of the measuring cup. This tool has been a life saver. You get every bit of honey out and you can measure several different liquids at the same time.

Marinate the salmon for about 15 minutes. While that is marinating, top and tail your beans and toss them with a bit of sesame oil and 5 spice powder. Spread them on a foil lined baking sheet and cook under the broiler for about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan, stir the beans and add the salmon to the pan, pouring any extra marinade over the fish. Place the pan back under the broiler for another 3 minutes then remove to stir the beans and adjust the fish if necessary to ensure even cooking. A final 3 minutes under the broiler should be enough but certainly check the fish and finish to your liking.

We served this with polenta to help soak up some of the yummy juice left on the pan.


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Fajitas are delicious anytime but they are an especially great option when your in laws are visiting and you’ve spent the entire day kayaking and paddle boarding down the Tennessee River and you need a simple delicious meal to round out the day. Even better if you have freshly canned peach salsa that needs to be tested 🙂

Skirt steak has become our go to fajita meat. It is very thin and takes well to a quick sear in the cast iron. It usually comes in a long roll so you may have to cut it into 2 pieces to fit the skillet. Pat the meat dry first and then season with cumin, salt, and oregeno. Skirt steak only needs about 2 minutes per side and then a quick rest before slicing into thin slices.

I find this method works best for cooking the meat. We used to cut our meat first but you can create the best flavor cooking it whole and then slicing.

Great fajitas have great toppings. We cooked red bell peppers and onions in the skillet after the meat.

We also roasted a poblano pepper. To do this, put the peppers on a baking sheet and put under the broiler. Keep turning the peppers until they are blackened all over. Immediately transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. This causes the pepper to steam and allows you to peel the skin right off.

Warm your tortillas and top with skirt steak, peppers and onions, roasted poblano, and peach salsa…yum!


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Shrimp and Green Beans

I love a dish that involves only 1 cooking pot and comes together in about 15 minutes. This shrimp and green bean dish is a winner on those counts.

This is a pretty modified version of a recipe I found in Fine Cooking last year.

Start by marinating your shrimp in soy sauce and rice vinegar. If your pantry is running low like mine was this week you’ll find that you can use half rice vinegar and half vermouth with no ill effects. Let the shrimp marinate for about an hour.

When you’re ready to cook start with your green beans in the wok with a bit of oil. Let them cook until they start to get a nice brownness on them. Add 1/4 of water and cover the pan to let the green beans steam. Steam them for about 5 minutes. (as I’m typing this I realized that shrimp stock would have been much better than water. Next time, I suppose!) When the beans are just about done to your liking, add ginger and garlic and stir around for about 30 seconds. Then, pour in the shrimp and the marinade. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are done and the marinade has begun to thicken up.

I wish we had made a bit of rice to help soak up the sauce but this is pretty great on its own.


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