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.

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