Fish Cakes with Feta & Olives

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Not going to lie to y’all. I have no idea what kind of fish I used to make this dish. I was trying to eat through some of our freezer foods and pulled this out. It’s tilapia, maybe? So we’ll just suggest you use any white fish of your choosing. This was another of those recipes that I threw together out of the refrigerator (and freezer) ingredients and ended up pretty happy with. The cakes are just a bit crisp on the outside and nice and moist on the inside. The flavors work well together I think. I ended up topping mine with a little bit of hummus; Selim added a dash of hot sauce. If I’d had some, I would spread some tzatziki on top of mine – that would’ve been perfect!

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Fish Cakes with Feta & Olives

Ingredients:
  • 10oz white fish
  • 4oz feta, crumbled
  • 10 kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6-8 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Slide the fish into the pot, lower heat, and cover. Allow fish to poach for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove fish and pat dry.
  4. Break up the fish in a large bowl.
  5. Stir in all of the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  7. With your hands, scoop up a full handful of the fish mixture. Form into a ball between your hands. Place on the cookie sheet, and press down lightly with the heel of your hand to create the patty.
  8. Repeat step 7 for each patty.
  9. Bake for a total of 30 minutes. Flip halfway through, so each side cooks for 15 minutes.
Makes 6 patties.

Kimchi Braised Chicken with Noodles

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As you can tell, we enjoy braised chicken.  We make it more often than the handful of posts on our blog.  It’s simple, tasty, and always makes leftovers for lunches or a quick dinner later in the week.  I think kimchi scares a lot of people… fermented cabbage, anyone?  It’s alive and continues to ferment while sealed up, further breaking down the vegetables and adding flavor to the various spices contained within that swollen jar.  Ally had dog-eared this recipe a while ago, and we didn’t know what to expect.  We were both expecting a bit of sourness from the fermentation products of the kimchi, some smokiness from the bacon, acidity from the tomatoes, and of course a touch of sweetness from the white wine.  The ingredients, each lending their own simple tastes to the finished product, which has a unique complexity that will make you wish you made a double batch.  For more spice, try adding some of your favorite hot sauce (sriracha would go well), some cayenne, or a a few pinches of chipotle spices for a smoky heat.

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Kimchi Braised Chicken with Noodles

(Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, February 2016 issue)
Ingredients: 
  • 5 slices of bacon, sliced
  • 3 lb boneless chicken thighs
  • 10 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 oz (by weight) grape tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups kimchi, with juices
  • 8oz egg noodles
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Place a large Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until slightly crispy.
  2. Remove the bacon to the side to a paper towel lined plate, retaining the bacon fat.
  3. Add the garlic and tomatoes into the dish. Lower heat slightly and cover. Stir occasionally.
  4. After ~5 minutes of cooking, the garlic should be browning and the tomatoes getting wrinkly. Using the back of your slotted spoon (or whatever utensil you’re cooking with…), press down on the tomatoes until they burst.
  5. Pour in the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the dish.
  6. Bring to a boil and allow to reduce by half.
  7. Now return the bacon to the dish, along with the kimchi and chicken. Bring to a simmer. Then lower heat & cover.
  8. Braise over low-medium heat for an hour, uncovering once roughly halfway through to stir.
  9. After this time, remove the lid from the Dutch oven. Increase heat slightly, ensuring that the tomato-kimchi liquid comes to a fast simmer. Cook for ~20 more minutes. The liquid will reduce. Break apart the chicken as it begin to fall apart.
  10. Towards the end of the braising time, cook egg noodles. Boil in a pot of salted water until al dente.
  11. Once pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
  12. Return the pasta to the cooking pot and top with butter, 1/4 cup of cooking liquid, and salt & pepper to taste. Toss until pasta is covered with buttery liquid. Add a little bit more cooking liquid if you think it needs.
  13. To serve, top a serving of noodles with generous spoonfuls of chicken and tomato-kimchi sauce.
Makes 6-8 servings

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Mint Chocolate Bars

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I had a great month of May in terms of a rotation I was doing for school. I loved it and learned so much! On my last day, I wanted to bring a little treat for the staff who taught me and worked with me for the past few weeks. I couldn’t decide what to make, but ruled out cookies because the hospital frequently provides trays of cookies that are pretty darn good. And I’m generally exhausted during the middle of the week, so I wanted to make something pretty simple. I came up with the idea for these, essentially extrapolating from a thought of Rice Krispy Treats! These are so easy to make and are delicious!! You can’t go wrong. You could easily throw these together for some sort of last minute get-together or other situation.

(Also. I forgot to take pictures. So all you get is a quick shot of the 2 bites I saved for Selim.)

Mint Chocolate Bars

Ingredients: 
  • 1 standard sized box of Mint Oreos
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 bag of large marshmallows (5 cups)
  • 20 pieces Andes candy, chopped
Instructions: 
  1. Place the Oreos in a large plastic bag and smash with a mallet. Don’t smash them too finely.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.
  3. Once butter is melted, add the marshmallows and cover. Keep on low heat.
  4. Remove the lid every 3-4 minutes and stir. The marshmallows will melt and eventually combine with the butter.
  5. Once the butter and marshmallows are melted and combined, pour in the crushed Oreos. Working quickly, stir to coat the cookies in the marshmallow/butter. Remove from heat.
  6. Lastly, add the chopped Andes candy. They will quickly begin to melt. Stir ASAP to get the candy spread throughout.
  7. Scoop the mixture into a glass baking dish (8×8). Spread out evenly.
  8. Allow to cool entirely. Once cooled, slice with a sharp knife.
  9. Try not to eat them all before you share with friends!
Makes ~25-30 bars, obviously depending on how large you cut them.

Baklava

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Filo dough can be very intimidating to work with.  It’s hard to find, not used in American cuisine, and requires patience to handle.  We learned that filo dough originated in the kitchens of Topkapı Palace, where the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire once lived.  When people think of filo dough, most think of decadent sweets like baklava, but filo dough is also be used for savory snacks like borek (filo layered with spinach & feta).  We haven’t made borek yet, but trust us, it’ll be on the blog soon enough.

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Gate to Topkapi Palace

Naturally, when we started to make baklava, we had to call my father, Baba (Turkish for father), since he’s our resident Turkish food expert.  He loves the blog and hopefully will love the shout out as well.  He gave us some tips for how to make the best baklava possible and include how finely to grind the walnuts, how thick the walnut layer should be, and also that the best baklava sets for a couple days to really absorb all the sweet syrup.  Baba also shared a great story from when he was a child and my Babaanne (father’s mother = grandmother) would make baklava, she would have to lock the finished baklava in another room so my father and his siblings wouldn’t eat it all before it was perfectly set.  Of course, we had to try it as soon as we poured the syrup over it… but when we tried it again for breakfast the next day, we both agree that it only gets better as it sets for a day or two.

We hope you enjoy this decadently sweet treat, your sweet tooth will thank us.

 

 

Baklava

(Adapted from the cookbook Sultan’s Table, by Ozçan Ozan with tips from Selim’s father)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 3 cups + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 cups (~300g) walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted, clarified butter
  • 40 sheets of filo dough (usually 2 packages)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. (If you have clarified butter, melt the appropriate amount. If you only have regular butter, melt it in a saucepan and then skim off the foam and slowly pour the liquid into a bowl making sure to not transfer solid milk fats which are at the bottom.)
  3. Prepare the syrup: combine cold water and 3 cups of sugar in a medium saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes, then lower heat to a simmer. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice and allow to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, combine walnuts and 2 tbsp sugar in food processor. Process until “medium” ground – don’t let it get too fine.
  6. Now brush the inside of a large cookie sheet with clarified butter.
  7. Place a sheet of filo dough in the pan. Brush with another little bit of clarified butter. Continue in this pattern until you’ve placed half of the sheets (~20) of filo dough in the pan.
  8. Now spread the walnut mixture onto the top layer of filo dough. Drizzle with more clarified butter.
  9. Return to the pattern of layering dough and clarified butter until you use all of the rest of the filo dough sheets. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter.
  10. Take a very sharp knife and dip it into hot water. Slice down halfway through the height of the dough into the size and shape of baklava pieces you want at the end.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven.
  12. Lower heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes.
  13. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
  14. Slice all the way through, along the lines you previously made.
  15. Pour the syrup over top, along the cut lines.
  16. Top with additional ground nuts if desired.

Sweet & Savory Cheese Ball

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In the last installation of What We Ate At Amy’s Graduation Party, I give you this interesting little cheese ball. I know cheese balls are kind of clichéd, standard party food, but that doesn’t mean they’re not delicious. I got trapped by this one (as usual) and stood there munching on it for longer than I should probably admit. I found this dish a little different and interesting because it is equally sweet and savory. As you’re tasting it, you notice the sweet first, then realize you’re also tasting a strong garlicky flavor. But it doesn’t clash in your mouth – it works perfectly!

I think this was the only dish at the party that wasn’t a tried & true family recipe. Mom had it at another party and asked for the recipe from her friend. She gave her a copy of a printed out recipe that’s called Mill Mountain Cheese Spread. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where that name came from or with whom the recipe originated. If you try to look up “mill mountain cheese spread” in quotations, Google tells you that there are ‘No results found.’ (And here I thought Google was invincible.) There is a place in Roanoke, Virginia called Mill Mountain – I’m guessing the recipe maybe came from some place near there? What I did find though via the nearly-invincible Google though, is a recipe with the exact same ingredients. The Taste of Home website has a recipe entitled French Quarter Cheese Spread, that they published in November/December issue of Simple & Delicious magazine. So we’ll give them credit, so as to give someone credit!

Sweet & Savory Cheese Ball

Ingredients: 
  • 8oz cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced finely
  • 1 tbsp granulated onion
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp brown mustard
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Instructions: 
  1. Let cream cheese sit out until it is soft.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese with the garlic and onion.
  3. Once mixed together well, form into a ball with your hands. Place the cheese ball onto the dish you’re going to serve it on, which needs to have raised edges.
  4. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat on the stove.
  6. Once butter has melted, stir a few times to ensure the ingredients are combined. Then spoon over top of the cream cheese ball.
  7. Return dish to the refrigerator until just before time to serve.
  8. You can set this out ~15-20 minutes before your guests are arriving, so it returns to room temperature.
  9. Serve with crackers.

Herbed Shrimp Pasta Salad

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Given that my sister Amy was the center of attention for her own graduation celebration, she got to pick which dishes my mom made for the party. One of her absolute favorites is this pasta salad with shrimp. Pretty much any time Amy gets to pick, this is what she asks for. This family favorite comes from my aunt Townley, although she says she thinks she got it from a neighbor years ago. Isn’t that always how things like this work? We’ve always known it as ‘Townley’s Shrimp Pasta Salad,’ but she got it from the neighbor, who probably got it from someone else, and on and on. Maybe one day, Amy’s friends will know it as ‘Amy’s Shrimp Pasta Salad,’ since she’ll make it so many times. And maybe one of you will like it so much and go on to make it so many times that it because known as YOUR shrimp pasta salad!

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Herbed Shrimp Pasta Salad

Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb medium shell pasta
  • 1 lb baby shrimp
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp dill
  • 2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of an onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Salt & pepper as needed
Instructions: 
  1. Prepare the pasta according to instructions or however you normally do it.
  2. Drain the pasta, but while still hot, stir in the mayonnaise, dill, and Old Bay.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil. Once softened, add the garlic and onions into the pasta, along with the shrimp.
  4. Stir everything together and top with a salt and pepper to your liking.
  5. Refrigerate until serving.
Makes ~8-10 servings if using as a main dish for a luncheon or similar. Is plenty for way more guests than that if part of a potluck with other dishes like we did for the party!

Pinch of Crab Egg Dip

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Ok, bear with me now. I know this isn’t the first post where I’ve started with – “this sounds kind of weird, but I promise you it’s really good!” This is another one of those. I don’t know who originally thought, 💭Hmm… let me combine some eggs and crab and make a dip out of it, but I’m glad s/he did. My aunt Ann has made this dip for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always loved it. It’s super easy to throw together for a party and definitely something your guests probably haven’t eaten before. It’s a fairly mild dip, that will please most palates, provided they like crab/seafood. It’s delicious and addicting spread on crackers. I like it with a drop of hot sauce on top! Let us know what you think!

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Pinch of Crab Egg Dip

Ingredients:
  • 9 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 3 6oz tins of crabmeat (obviously use fresh if you’re so inclined/budgeted)
  • 2 tbsp poppyseeds
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
Instructions: 
  1. Chop up the hardboiled eggs.
  2. Mix all of the ingredients together.
  3. Chill until serving. Serve with crackers.
I don’t really know how to describe portions of a dip. This makes the amount of dip pictured above, served at a large party.