Spicy Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

Spicy Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

You know what makes me happy every year in early November? A mountain of Dungeness crab meat. When the crabbing season opens and those first boats leave the harbor with their crab traps, us West-coasters know we’re in for a treat.

In my town I think the best place to eat Dungeness crab is little place out on the wharf called Stagnaro’s. Downstairs there is a fish market with a walk-up counter where you can order a crab or shrimp cocktail, a burger, or a whole fish or fresh live crab to take home with you. Inside is a casual sit-down seafood restaurant. But the real treat (and where we love to take out of town visitors) is the upstairs bar, which has an outdoor deck, a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay, and a mean Dungeness crab cocktail. For some reason, the deck is usually vacant, but we have no idea why. It may be a little breezy out there and the seagulls can be loud, but it’s hard to beat the view of the ocean. Look one direction and you see our lighthouse proudly perched on the end of the cliffs with Cowell’s and Steamers (popular surf spots) down below. Look the other direction and you take in a view of the Boardwalk, the sandy beaches dotted with tourists, locals, and beach volleyball enthusiasts alike, and the Santa Cruz mountains standing tall in the background. If you’re lucky, you’ll look down at the water just below you and watch a sea otter eat a sea urchin, or a pack of sea lions splashing and bellowing. All of this while digging into a fresh Dungeness crab cocktail, biting into a warm buttered sourdough roll, and sipping a local pale ale. Sound enticing?

These open-faced sandwiches are piled high with  fresh crab meat that’s been mixed with chopped marinated artichokes, green onions, just enough mayonnaise to hold it together, some lemon zest, and a little minced jalapeño for heat. You top them with sharp cheddar, stick them under the broiler, and you have a satisfying meal that celebrates both the crustacean it highlights and the season.

The recipe comes from a cookbook that I received as a gift from my Grandma who lives in Alaska. It is a collection of stories and recipes from female commercial fisherwomen. The only changes we made to the original recipe were adding a little lemon zest to the crab mixture (because I think lemon and crab are a match made in heaven), using sourdough bread instead of french bread (just a personal preference), and buttering the bread before broiling (why not?). Our changes are noted below. Not in the mood for a spicy sandwich? Simply add less jalapeño or leave it out completely.

We went the economical and labor-intensive route by purchasing a whole Dungeness crab and taking the meat out ourselves (just ask your butcher to crack and clean it for you and it will make the process easier). You can buy Dungeness crab meat, but the price per pound will be slightly more because of the labor involved. It’s up to you! If you can’t find Dungeness crab, substitute whatever crab meat is available to you.

Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

Spicy Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

Spicy Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Melts

(Slightly adapted from The Fishes & Dishes Cookbook; Makes 4 Servings)

1 1/2 cups shelled crab meat, shredded
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 TBS. minced fresh jalapeño
1 tsp. minced garlic
a couple pinches of fresh lemon zest
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 green onion, white and light green parts, sliced
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 large slices of sourdough bread from a round sourdough loaf
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
chopped fresh parsley for garnish

  • Preheat the broiler and set the rack on the middle level.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the crab meat, artichoke hearts, jalapeño, garlic, lemon zest, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, green onion, salt and pepper.
  • Lightly butter the sourdough bread slices on both sides and place under the broiler until lightly golden. Turn them over and broil until other side is lightly golden. Remove from oven and spread each toasted slice of bread with the crab-artichoke mixture. Top with cheddar cheese. Place the open-faced sandwiches back under the broiler and cook until topping is hot and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.
Dungeness Crabs (photo from Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Dungeness Crabs (photo from Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Caprese Grilled Cheese

Pardon our absence! It’s been a whirlwind of a summer, but I know that our blog readers are awesome and will forgive us.

It started with the passing of my dear Grandma, and that’s all I can say about that right now, because I’d prefer to write this blog post with clear eyes.

And then our whole family had the privilege of being involved in the wedding of two wonderful friends. Levi made his first ring bearer debut, I had my first bridesmaid experience (and first ever manicure – thanks, Miriam!), and Dustin was a groomsman. It was a truly joyful event!

Throw several bridal showers into the mix (from Modesto to Mill Valley, all the way down to San Diego), a toddler who has officially entered the terrible twos (though I’m still incredibly blessed to be his mommy – I love seeing how his personality is blooming), and the fact that the whole family is gearing up for Discretion Brewing‘s opening this fall, and you have a summer that basically  flew by in the blink of an eye. You also have what might have been the world’s longest run on sentence. So I’m a little rusty, folks, but it’s okay, because I really just want to share this grilled cheese recipe with you. We ate it voraciously this evening.

Fall is approaching, and we must embrace tomatoes while we still can! This grilled cheese sandwich consists of two kinds of tomatoes – a yellow heirloom  and a red dry farmed variety, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil from our garden, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. What makes it extra special? The bread. I spread sliced sweet french bread with butter, and seasoned it with garlic powder and oregano. So, basically you have two pieces of garlic bread sandwiching your Caprese salad – a cool center and a warm outside. Now that’s going out (of summer) with a bang.

As we bid farewell to summer (wait, I blinked – what happened to it?) and say hello to fall, a season near and dear to my heart, I may not be posting quite as frequently, as we are all working hard towards our brewery’s opening (stay on top of our progress and find out our opening date on our Facebook page!) But when I’m not crazy-busy, I will continue to share with you what’s coming out of our kitchen.

Bon Appetite and Cheers, dear readers!

Caprese Grilled Cheese

4 Slices French bread
Butter (salted is preferred), at room temperature
Garlic powder
Dried oregano
Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
Heirloom and/or dry farmed tomatoes, sliced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh, whole basil leaves

  • Preheat your broiler.
  • Spread your bread slices on both sides (gasp!) with butter. Season with garlic powder and oregano.
  • Place buttered/seasoned slices on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler and broil until nice and golden. Flip, and broil until the other side is golden. Remove baking sheet from oven. Turn off broiler and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • On two of the bread slices, pile on sliced mozzarella and sliced tomatoes. Season the tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add the fresh basil leaves. Top with the remaining two slices of bread. Return to oven for just a few minutes. The middle of the sandwich will still be cool (like a caprese salad) but you want to warm up the bread just a little before serving. Enjoy! Makes 2 caprese grilled cheese sandwiches.

Argentine Hot Dogs (with Chimichurri, Pickled Red Onions, Marinated Queso Fresco & Chorizo)

It’s nearing the end of summer, and you’ve probably had your share of hot dogs, but these Argentine dogs are as far from yellow mustard and ketchup as you can get.  Grilled all-beef hot dogs get an array of colorful and flavorful toppings: a verdant chimichurri with the addition of finely chopped sweet red and yellow peppers and grated carrot, sweet and tangy pickled red onions, queso fresco marinated in olive oil and yellow flecks of lemon zest, and spicy ground chorizo. Yes, chorizo on a hot dog. It’s a hot dog elevated to a new level.

I came across this recipe when I was reading the food section in our local newspaper. I made only a few changes. I thought these dogs deserved something better than your typical white hot dog bun, so we bought some soft steak rolls, cut them in half lengthwise and made a slit in each half, creating hot dog buns with some substance. I also went in a different direction with the pickled onions. The original recipe calls for pouring a simple syrup and grenadine over them, but since I didn’t have any grenadine and didn’t have a need for buying a whole bottle, I decided to just use my method for quick cucumber pickles (adding a little vinegar, agave nectar, and salt), but adding more agave nectar to make the onions sweeter, in order to counter-balance the acidity in the chimichurri. The chorizo adds the perfect amount of spice, and the marinated queso fresco adds a cooling, creamy counterpoint. See why this hot dog is in a different dimension?

Levi especially enjoyed these hot dogs. I wish we had taken a picture, but his plate contained a de-constructed version of an Argentine hot dog. The pieces of hot dog and queso fresco disappeared first, but he seemed to enjoy all the components of this meal!

The pickled onions and the marinated queso fresco are made the night before, and the chimichurri can be made the morning of, so everything comes together quickly at dinner time. All you have to do is cook the chorizo, grill the hot dogs, and assemble! Make these Argentine hot dogs while the grill is still out. Quick! Summer is fleeting.

Argentine Hot Dogs

(Slightly adapted from the San Jose Mercury News, original recipe by Carole Wendling; Serves 2)

For the Chimichurri:

1/2 a bunch of parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 TBS. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. crushed garlic
1/4 cup finely diced red and yellow peppers
2 tablespoons grated carrot

For the Pickled Red Onions:

1/2 red onion, sliced
2 TBS. white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
agave nectar to taste
Kosher salt to taste

For the Marinated Queso Fresco:

4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Salt, pepper to taste

To Assemble:

2 grilled beef hot dogs
1 sweet or sour steak roll – cut in half lengthwise, with a slit cut into each half to form 2 hot dog “buns”
4 ounces ground chorizo, cooked

Wow – that’s a long list of ingredients, I know! But everything is so easy to make. Here we go …

  • To make the pickled onions, place the sliced onions in a bowl and add the vinegar. Add a good drizzle of agave nectar (or you can use honey or sugar) and season with a little salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more sweetener if needed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Combine the marinated queso fresco ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Make the chimichurri. Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor; pulse to pesto-like consistency. Season to taste with salt. Fold in peppers and carrot. Set aside. Can be made several hours ahead. Cover and chill. Take out of refrigerator 1 hour before serving.
  • Lightly toast the buns on the grill, grill the hot dogs, and top with cooked, crumbled chorizo, chimichurri, pickled red onions, and marinated queso fresco.

Lamb & Sweet Onion Pitas with Orange-Cucumber Salad

It’s no surprise that we’ve been busy lately! Levi’s been crawling for about a month now, so dinners have had to be quick and easy to throw together while he zooms around the kitchen. These pitas are great for a weeknight because they are as quick to prepare as tacos but more exotic-tasting. Cinnamon-spiced ground lamb is topped with sweet caramelized onions, a refreshingly bright orange and cucumber salad with mint, and a dollop of cool Greek yogurt. A warm, chewy pita holds everything together for ease of eating! (And keeps one hand free for feeding bites to a baby).

Levi is quite the eater! We’ve moved away from purees at dinnertime (he was getting bored with them and much more interested in what was on our plates – do you blame him?) and now he pretty much eats whatever we eat for dinner. He loved each little bite that I made for him of pita, ground lamb, and a little greek yogurt (which somehow ended up on his forehead :))

Lamb & Sweet Onion Pitas with Orange-Cucumber Salad

(From the Feb/Mar 2011 issue of Fine Cooking)

2-1/2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. ground lamb
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 large oranges
1 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh mint
2 pitas, halved and very lightly toasted
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

  • Heat 1-1/2 TBS. of the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add about three-quarters of the onion, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the onion to a small bowl; set aside.
  • Cook the lamb, cinnamon, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in the skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat, until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes; drain well.
  • Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining raw onion and transfer to a large bowl. Cut the peels and pith from the oranges. Working over a bowl to collect the juice, cut the orange segments free from the membranes. Cut the segments into chunks. Add the oranges, orange juice, cucumber, vinegar, mint, and the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the chopped raw onion; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Fill the pitas with the lamb and cooked onions. Add some of the orange-cucumber salad and a dollop of yogurt. Serve the remaining salad on the side.

Turkey Parmesan Burgers

Personally, I think eating something between two slices of toasted french bread makes it much more delicious and comforting. For example, meatloaf. I love it on its own, but it’s even better the next day in a sandwich! Same goes for meatballs, fried eggs or even calamari. And now I can add Chicken Parmesan to that list.

Both Dustin and I saw the picture of Chicken Parmesan Burgers in the March issue of Bon Appetit and agreed we had to make them this week. When we went to the store, the butcher was out of ground chicken, but turkey worked just fine! Patties flavored with a little marinara sauce, minced basil, and grated onion are rolled in a mixture of breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan and pan fried, which gives them a nice crispy texture and that distinctive Chicken Parmesan taste. Add your favorite jarred marinara sauce (we opted for Newman’s Own Organic) and some mozzerella cheese and you have your favorite Italian entrée in sandwich form. Some fresh basil leaves add a nice finishing touch, and I’m glad I gave the radicchio a chance (I’m not usually a huge radicchio fan like Dustin is) because its slight bitterness was actually good with the sweetness of the marinara. This recipe serves 4. Try it tonight!

Turkey (or Chicken) Parmesan Burgers

(From the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit)

10 1/2-inch-thick slices French bread (4 inches in diameter); 8 slices toasted, 2 slices (crust removed) diced
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons minced fresh basil, divided, plus 12 large basil leaves
3/4 cup purchased marinara sauce
3/4 lb. ground chicken (white meat) or ground turkey
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
4 large radicchio leaves
  • In a food process, blend diced bread and Parmesan to form fine crumbs. Transfer to pie dish; mix in 2 tablespoons minced basil.
  • Mix marinara and 2 tablespoons basil in small saucepan. Transfer 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce to large bowl. Add chicken, 1/2 tablespoon oil, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle with pepper; blend. Shape into four 1/2-inch-thick patties; coat with crumbs. Heat sauce over low heat.
  • Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook patties until bottoms are crusty, 4 minutes. Turn patties over; top with cheese. Cook 3 minutes. Cover; cook until cooked through and cheese is melted, about 1 minute.
  • Assemble burgers with bread, radicchio, basil leaves, and warm marinara.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

I recently learned about banh mi from reading various food magazines in the past year. It’s basically a Vietnamese-French sub sandwich. A crusty baguette holds flavorful fillings (such as pork meatballs, barbecued or shredded pork), mayo, pickled daikon and carrots for a little crunch and tang, and sliced jalapeños to add the perfect heat. Bon Appetit’s recipe features a kick-ass Sriracha mayo that will surely please your palate, especially if you’re as obsessed with the spicy condiment as we are. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can make the mayo and the meatballs the day before, and throw everything together very quickly the day of. Then sit back and enjoy the familiar chewiness and crunchiness of a French baguette with sweet, sour and spicy Vietnamese flavors. These cultural hybrid sandwiches are definitely going to be made again around here! The recipe below makes 4 sandwiches.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

(From the  January 2010 issue of Bon Appetit)

For the Sriracha Mayo:

2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)

For the Meatballs:

1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

For the Sandwiches:

2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)*
Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

* 10 inches sounded a little excessive to us. If I go to Subway, I’m a 6-inch sub kind of gal. So cut the bread according to your appetite! Also, the recipe doesn’t say to, but we toasted our rolls in the oven before assembling the sandwiches.

  • Stir all ingredients for the Sriracha mayo in a small bowl. Season with salt. This can be done 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Next, prepare the meatballs. Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. Meatballs can also be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  • Toss the grated carrot and daikon with the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.
  • Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes.
  • Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell (we skipped this step and were still able to assemble our sandwiches just fine — it depends on the density of your baguette).
  • Spread Sriracha mayo over each bread shell. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro on top of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place on top of the sandwiches, pressing down on baguette tops. Enjoy!

Turkey-Pesto Burgers with Grilled Onions

Do you ever go to the store with no idea of what you want to make for dinner? Last Monday was one of those days. I went to the Butcher counter and started to panic because it was almost my turn and I couldn’t focus: Hmm…that fish looks nice and fresh…So do those steaks…Dustin would like steak…But I feel like chicken…hmm…boneless and skinless chicken thighs…Would those be good on the BBQ?…no…oh, ground meats…what about … ?? “Can I help you?” The butcher asked, startling my train of thought. So I asked for the thing that was right in front of me – ground turkey thighs. Whew. Now that the protein was taken care of, things started to fall into place in my brain. I remembered that we had fresh basil at home, as well as tons of mizuna so I immediately thought of pesto and went straight to the bulk aisle for walnuts to add to it.

So that was my boring thought process of how I ended up mixing pesto into our turkey burgers. The result was a really moist, flavorful burger. I called Nikita (if you haven’t noticed, we love to cook and eat dinner together) to inform her of the menu, and soon she came over to enjoy them with us, bringing with her some summery micro brews and a bag of Kettle Chips (our favorite flavor “Buffalo Bleu”). We ate our burgers on sesame-wheat buns (brushed with olive oil and lightly grilled), with sliced tomato, grilled white onions, and mayo. They were sort of messy (think Carls’ Jr. ads) but delicious. I can’t wait to see what happens next time I’m under pressure at the meat counter!

Turkey-Pesto Burgers with Grilled Onions

2-3 cups of basil leaves, washed and dried*
a big handful of walnut pieces, lightly toasted in a skillet
1 clove of garlic
a handful of Parmesan cheese
juice of 1/2 a lime
about 1/4 cup of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. ground turkey
hamburger buns of your choice
1 sweet white onion, sliced into thick rings
tomato slices

*I didn’t have quite enough basil, so I added some mizuna leaves. It gave the pesto a wonderful bite to it. You could also add arugula for the same effect.

  • First, make the pesto: Combine the basil, mizuna (if using), walnuts, garlic, Parmesan, and lime juice in a food processor. Process until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil, until it reaches a good consistency. Season with salt & pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Pour pesto into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until use (Makes about 1 cup – more than needed for the burgers, but you can freeze it if you want).
  • Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Season the top with salt & pepper. Add 3 or 4 heaping spoonfuls of pesto to the bowl. Mix with your hands until pesto is incorporated into the meat. Divide meat into 4-5 portions (depending on how thick you like your burgers), form patties, and place on a plate. Cover and chill while you prepare the grill.
  • Brush the tops and bottoms of the buns with olive oil and set aside. Brush onion slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill onions until nice and charred, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  • Grill burgers about 4-5 minutes on each side. When the burgers are almost done, grill the tops and bottoms of the buns until golden and toasty.
  • Assemble burgers how you like – we used this order: mayo, patty, grilled onions, tomato. Dig in!

Grilled Lamb Gyros with Tzatziki & Summer Chickpea Salad

We’ve been thinking about gyros ever since we went to a Greek Food Festival with our friends last month. I think my favorite part of a gyro is the tzatziki. The cucumber, lemon and yogurt make for a refreshing sauce that goes perfectly with grilled meat, tomatoes and onions. Last night we made our own version of a gyro by wrapping pita bread around grilled lamb that was marinated in olive oil, herbs, and garlic, some homemade tzatziki, and a summery salad of chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese and herbs that I found in one of my favorite Jamie Oliver cookbooks. Some grilled summer squash rounded out what we deemed the perfect summer BBQ meal.

Last night was a wonderful night to eat outside. Not only are we approaching the longest day of the year so it stays light long enough to finish both dinner and dessert (and a bottle of wine or two), but it’s been staying warm until the sun goes down. Also, we planted a little vegetable garden today and wanted to be near it! Some sugar snap peas will soon be growing up bamboo sticks. Grow, peas, grow!

We also planted two varieties of tomatoes (Early Girl and another that I’ll have to get back to you on, but it’s an heirloom variety), an artichoke, a zucchini, and basil! Look how cute this little sugar snap pea plant is! I haven’t gotten around to photographing the other plants yet, sorry!

Unrelated to vegetables, the hydrangeas are gorgeous right now! Don’t they make you want to be outside? My cats love to jump around and try to catch the bees that hover over their flowers. Sometimes they do little back-flips in the process and it’s very entertaining to watch. Cats really do always land on their feet! Ok, now let’s get to some recipes …

Summer Chickpea Salad
(Slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced

2 fresh red chilies, de-seeded and sliced

2 handfuls of yellow pear tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), halved

2 limes

extra virgin olive oil

salt & freshly ground black pepper

chili flakes

1 14 oz. jar of chickpeas, drained

a handful of fresh mint, chopped

a handful of fresh basil, finely ripped

7 oz. feta cheese

  • In a bowl, combine the sliced onion, garlic, chilies, and tomatoes. Dress with the juice of 1 1/2 limes and about 3 times as much olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili flakes (or whatever combination of spices you desire).
  • Heat the chickpeas in a pan. Add 90% of them to the bowl. Mush up the remaining 10% and add these to the bowl as well (Jamie says they give a nice, creamy consistency. They sure did).
  • Allow salad to marinate for a little while and serve at room temperature. Just before serving, add the fresh mint & basil. Taste one more time and adjust the seasoning. You can also add the juice from the remaining lime half if you think it needs it. Crumble the feta cheese over the salad and gently mix. Serves 4.


1 english cucumber
1 cup yogurt

2 garlic cloves, minced
juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 of a small red onion, minced (optional – we had some leftover from the salad)
a handful of fresh oregano, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a spoon. Grate the cucumber onto a kitchen towel or heavy duty paper towel. Pick up the towel and squeeze the excess moisture out of the cucumber. Do this several times until no more water is coming out of the towel.
  • In a small bowl, combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, minced garlic, oregano, and salt & pepper. Mix well. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for a little while so the flavors can mingle. Taste again before serving and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Grilled Boneless Leg of Lamb Gyros
(We explained to our butcher that we wanted to grill lamb to slice to make gyros. He was very helpful and offered to sell us the boneless legs that they usually use to make the marinated lamb cubes. The moral of the story is – don’t be afraid to ask your butcher if you don’t know exactly what kind of cut of meat to get! They are there to help you out!)

2 lbs boneless leg of lamb

salt & freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
several cloves of garlic, minced
fresh rosemary, chopped
fresh oregano, chopped
about 1 TBS red wine vinegar

  • Make a dry rub out of enough paprika, cumin, salt and pepper to cover every surface of your lamb. Place in a baking dish or pie pan.
  • In a small bowl, combine enough oil, minced garlic, chopped herbs, and vinegar to create a pesto-like consistency. Rub this mixture all over the lamb. Allow to marinate for at least an hour. Two is even better. Prepare a charcoal grill (we used mesquite charcoal for a delicious, smoky taste). Let lamb come to room temp before grilling.
  • Remove the lamb from the marinade and place on the grill. Cook, turning occasionally until the meat reaches an internal temperature of about 145 degrees for medium-rare. Let rest 10-12 minutes before thinly slicing.
  • Assemble the gyros by heating up some whole wheat (and/or regular) pitas on the grill. Top with a few slices of lamb, a spoonful of chickpea salad, and some tzatziki. Alternatively, you can enjoy “de-constructed gyros” by placing all these components on your plate and enjoying in whatever order/combination you like!

Welsh Rarebit & Roasted Broccoli

Whether you say welsh rarebit or welsh rabbit, when Guinness Stout meets melted extra-sharp cheddar cheese, an irresistible open-faced sandwich is born. You might need a knife and a fork, but even if you tackle it with your hands, it’s well worth it and might even become your new favorite comfort food. I served this sandwich with some roasted broccoli spiked with chili flakes, because broccoli is one of those vegetables that has a great relationship with cheese. Enjoy this meal with a glass of Guinness, of course!

Welsh Rarebit (From the January 2009 issue of Food & Wine) and Roasted Broccoli

1 cup Guinness Stout
1 cup heavy cream
9 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. dry mustard
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 sweet baguette, halved lengthwise and cut into 8 pieces, toasted
2 small heads of broccoli
extra virgin olive oil
chili flakes

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for the broccoli
  • In a small saucepan, boil the Guinness over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the cream and boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes.
  • Scrape into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, cut the tough stems off of the broccoli and toss the florets with olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir with a spatula and continue roasting for 5 more minutes or just until starting to brown on the edges. Take broccoli out of the oven and set aside.
  • Turn off the oven and preheat the broiler.
  • To the Guinness-cream mixture, add the cheddar, egg yolks, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard. Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper.
  • Arrange the toasted baguette pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet. Spread the toasts with a 1/4-inch-thick layer of the cheddar mixture. Broil 4 inches from the heat for about 2 minutes, until the topping is bubbling and browned around the edges. Serve right away with the roasted broccoli. Serves 3-4.

Spicy Turkey & Chickpea Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries and Kale Chips

We loved these burgers! First you make a hummus-like concoction in the food processor, then mix it into the ground turkey, creating a very moist and flavorful burger that’s reminiscent of falafel. It’s served on a soft french roll with baby spinach leaves, red onion, Dijon mustard, and a little mayo. The idea came from the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Clean Eating, but we made some changes (as we usually do): To the chickpea mixture we added a large clove of chopped garlic, some chili powder to spice them up, and a handful of chopped fresh parsley. We opted for the chewy french roll over the whole wheat bun they recommend, but use whatever buns you have on hand! We served our burgers with some baked sweet potato fries seasoned with salt, pepper, brown sugar, and chili powder, and some kale chips — crunchy, nutty in flavor, and definitely the coolest new way to eat this veggie!

Spicy Turkey & Chickpea Burgers
(Adapted from Clean Eating)
Serves 4 (or 2 with leftover patties)

1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 TBS. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 lb. ground turkey
2 TBS. olive oil
2 sweet french rolls
a large handful of baby spinach leaves, washed
1/2 a red onion, sliced
mayo & Dijon mustard

  • In a food processor, combine the first 9 ingredients (through Worcestershire sauce). Pulse until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  • Transfer chickpea mixture to a large bowl and add the ground turkey. Mix together until well combined, then form patties (we made a total of 7 patties, about 3 inches wide and 1-1/2 inch thick).
  • Add some olive oil to a frying pan (a few times around the pan). Heat over medium high heat. When hot, fry the patties, about 4-6 minutes on each side depending on thickness of patties. You may have to cook them in 2 batches.
  • While patties are cooking, toast your rolls.
  • Assemble burgers on rolls with the spinach leaves, red onion, mayo and/or mustard. Add tomato if in season!

Sweet Potato Fries
Serves 2

1 large sweet potato (we used the ones with the white flesh)
1 TBS. olive oil
chili powder
brown sugar

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Wash sweet potato and pat dry. Cut in half, then place cut side down on the cutting board. Cut each half into slices. Cut those slices in half. Repeat until fries are the shape you want!
  • Toss fries in a bowl with about 1 TBS. of olive oil, and salt, pepper, chili powder, and brown sugar (no need to measure — just sprinkle and feel it out).
  • Spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
  • Bake for about 15 minutes. Flip fries over with tongs, then continue baking for another 10-15 minutes. When they start to look golden and caramelized on the ends, they’re ready!

Kale Chips

1 bunch of red kale, washed, and stems and center ribs removed (we used red curly kale)
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil (1 TBS. coats about 12 leaves – if you have more kale, increase olive oil as needed)
kosher salt

  • Toss the kale in a large bowl with the olive oil, making sure all the leaves are lightly coated. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Spread kale leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sometimes I need to use 2 baking sheets, depending on how big my bunch of kale is.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place baking sheets in the oven. After about 7 minutes, gently toss the kale on the baking sheet with tongs (and rotate the pans, if using 2). Then bake for another 7 minutes or until crisp. In the last couple minutes, really keep an eye of them. The kale leaves will wilt and feel slightly crisp when you toss them with the tongs. Also, the edges of the leaves will turn a little brown. Like popcorn, kale chips are done when they smell kind of sweet and toasty.

( You can also bake at a low temp (250 degrees) for about 30 minutes, like this version in Bon Appetit, but we use the above method to save time!)

Somehow Arius always finds a way to make it into my pictures … coincidence?

おいしい パン (Delicious Bread)

Today we have a random day off in the middle of the week thanks to 春分の日 (spring equinox day). So I thought I’d share some highlights from Kokoro, our mom ‘n pop bread shop down the street that means “heart” (and is represented by that character at the top). I briefly mentioned their tasty pita bread in a previous post but wanted to show what we typically pick up every Wednesday for lunch. Actually, this last Wednesday our friendly bread lady informed us that they will be closing for a month because her husband is having surgery. They were clearing everything out so unfortunately some of our usual suspects weren’t available – like the baguette rolls enveloping half a boiled potato topped with a drizzle of mayonnaise that hardens into a crispy salty topping. And our favorite – the curried cabbage hotdog, a Japanese take on sauerkraut, I guess. So alas, we’re without Kokoro for 30 days. Until then, you can ponder these pictures.

This one is a ham and cheese baguette. Perfectly crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle:

A croquette sandwich on a bed of cabbage in a fluffy white roll. Think mashed potato balls encrusted with crunchy panko breadcrumbs. The sandwich is drizzled with a tangy brown sauce that’s reminiscent of Worcestershire:

This is curry pan, a soft bun filled with curry paste (made from a curry roux) and topped with a sprinkling of panko:

We’ll call this one a curry-hotdog bear claw, because it has the same tasty toes that you instinctively want to eat first. But the best part is the crispy cheese and cracked black pepper on top:

There’s the hotdog baked in the “toes” along with curry paste:

And of course, something sweet. This is the closest I’ve come to eating a maple bar in Japan, my #1 favorite donut. It’s a sugared sweet roll swirled with maple:

Thanks for joining us for lunch. We’ll do it again when Kokoro reopens in May 🙂

Open-faced Chipotle Cheese Steak Sandwiches w/ Avocado, Tomato and Red Onion

Sometimes just a single store bought ingredient can inspire an entire meal. That was the case here. My parents sent us a jar of chipotle cheese dip in our last package, and I jumped right on it because I have a weakness for cheese — especially the kind in a jar that you eat warm with chips. This stuff looked a little too sophisticated for just chips, so we decided to smother steak sandwiches with it, and what a great idea it was, though extremely messy! And thanks to import produce from warmer countries, we found some really delicious avocados and tomatoes, even in February; perfect for this side salad, lightly dressed with lime juice. Next time a jar of cheese (preferably seasoned with chipotle) entices you, try this!

1/2 a baguette, sliced lengthwise
10 strips of sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1 lime, juice + zest
chilli powder, about 1 tsp.
cumin, about 1/2 tsp.
1 jar of chipotle cheese dip, such as Xochitl
1 avocado, sliced
1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 a red onion, sliced
salt pepper
a drizzle of olive oil

  • Season the steak strips with the salt, pepper, cumin, chilli powder and the zest of a lime. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes.
  • Heat your pan or BBQ and cook the steak to your desired doneness.
  • Toast the baguette halves. Top them with the sizzling steak.
  • Heat up the cheese dip for about 1 minute in the microwave or in a small saucepan. Top the steak with the cheese.
  • Serve alongside the sliced avocado, tomato and red onion, seasoned with salt & pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and a few squeezes of fresh lime juice.

    Chicken Meatball Subs

    There’s a 1st time for everything, and this was my 1st time making meatballs. I thought that a meatball sub sounded like a comforting thing to eat after getting through the 2nd week of our new semester, and I know that Dustin misses the ones from our college days at Giovanni’s in Santa Barbara. This recipe makes about 20 meatballs, which was a little much for the 2 of us. Halve it if you don’t want an excessive amount of leftovers!

    1 lb. ground chicken
    1 egg
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1/2 cup breadcrumbs
    1 clove of garlic, minced
    2 tsp. oregano (fresh or dried)
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2 TBS. olive oil for frying
    2 French bread rolls
    4 slices mozzarella cheese

    • Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl and mix with your hands until evenly combined.
    • Form into 1-inch balls (I did this in the afternoon and put the balls in the fridge until dinner time)
    • Heat olive oil in a frying pan
    • When hot, add the meatballs (10 at a time) and fry for about 8-10 minutes or until they’re browned on all sides.
    • Add to a pan of your favorite tomato sauce, warmed, (either store bought or homemade).
    • Make a cut in your rolls from the top (cutting down, instead of on the side) and remove some of the bread on either side of the cut.
    • Fill each roll with meatballs and sauce. Top with 2 slices of mozzarella cheese and place under a broiler or in a toaster oven until cheese is melted.
    • Serve with a salad and you’ve got dinner!

    Greek-Style Chicken Salad Wraps

    Maybe we should rename this blog “delicious” in Greek instead of Japanese, because lately we’ve been craving oregano, lemon, and feta in place of shoyu, dashi and daikon. Anyway, this was another great meal for a sweltering Osaka summer. We had never made chicken salad with yogurt before, but I wasn’t feeling very mayonnaise-y at the time, and this sounded cool and refreshing, especially with the crunchy bits of cucumber. I think these wraps would be great for a picnic too! I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. By the way, does anyone know how to say “Oishii” in Greek? The recipe below makes 2 large wraps:

    1 chicken breast half, shredded and cooled
    3/4 cup greek-style yogurt, or plain yogurt
    juice from 1/2 a lemon
    salt, pepper & oregano to taste
    1 english cucumber halved and diced
    2 large flour tortillas
    mixed greens
    1 bell pepper, sliced
    1/4 white onion, diced
    feta cheese, crumbled

    • In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano, and cucumber. Stir, taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Add the shredded chicken and combine.
    • To assemble, heat the tortillas over a burner and put on a plate. Place a handful of greens on a tortilla, a few strips of bell pepper, some onions, and crumbled feta. Top with chicken salad and a little more pepper and roll.

      BLFT (Bacon, Lettuce, Fried Tomato) Sandwiches

      I’m convinced that they would fry anything in Japan. I’ve seen everything from fried egg salad (how do they keep it from falling apart!?) to fried fish paste shaped like a bamboo shoot. I don’t blame them. Usually frying makes things taste better. I would have to fry my fish paste too if there was any chance that I was going to eat it. They also dye it pink, maybe in an attempt to get children to partake? Who knows.

      I wonder if Japanese people would find it odd that Americans fry Twinkies, Oreos and Snicker’s Bars. (I’ve never actually tried these things, but I hear you can buy them at every County Fair now!)

      Well on the topic of frying, last night’s dinner was a fried tomato BLT or BLFT. It’s actually become one of our weeknight standbys, despite the fact that it’s lacking in the health department!

      The key to this recipe is seasoning the tomato slices with salt, pepper and garlic powder before breading, and also using panko breadcrumbs (because they’re Japanese and we’re in Japan), and using the best bread (I think Gayle’s franchese would be best, but alas, we’re without it for a year more …)

      2 franchese rolls, halved or 4 slices of bread
      6 slices of bacon
      2 tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch-thick slices
      2 large lettuce leaves
      garlic powder
      Japanese panko breadcrumbs
      1 egg

      • Cook the bacon until crispy. Set aside. We like to retain the bacon grease for added flavor when frying the tomatoes. Add veggie oil to the pan until you have a depth of about 1/4 inch (about half the thickness of the tomatoes). Place on med-high heat.
      • Meanwhile, sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic powder on the tomato slices to taste. Dredge them in the flour, tapping off excess. Dip the floured tomatoes in the egg, coating both sides well. Then coat with breadcrumbs. Once oil is hot, fry tomatoes on both sides until golden brown– 3-5 minutes per side. Drain and let cool about 10 minutes.
      • While the tomatoes are frying, toast the bread. Assemble the sandwich in the suggested order: mayo, bacon, tomato, lettuce. Cut in half. Devour. My favorite accompaniment to to this meal is salt & vinegar potato chips (you might as well go all out, right?) 🙂