I don’t know if you noticed, but we haven’t shared too many posts this month so far (although our Sultan Selim Kofte was amazing & you should check it out!). A two-fold problem – we attempted a few recipes that we thought would be “blog-worthy,” that just didn’t turn out well, so we definitely couldn’t share our failures 🙄😬😣😉. And also, we used a few of our saved up vacation days to visit friends and watch UVA beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem one weekend and to see our families in Nashville for a cousin’s wedding on another weekend! So we really haven’t cooked quite as much as normal this month!
Our lack of blogging this month is a little bit of a tragedy because January is National Soup Month, and I LOVE SOUP! I don’t know what month is better suited to officially be National Soup Month – what sounds more cozy and warming for chilly nights (and days!) than a big flavorful bowl of soup. It’s actually National Slow Cooker month too (probably for similar reasons…), so we just went ahead and did the two birds, one stone thing with this recipe – ✔️ & ✔️!
I’ve had this recipe saved on Pinterest for literally years I think. It comes from Gimme Some Oven, which actually is the very first blog I think I ever started following. I’ve made many of her recipes over the years, prior to the birth of our little infant blog. Check it out for some great recipes from a veteran blogger and much better pictures than ours! We tweaked her recipe just a tiny bit, adding a little extra vegetables & spices, because the entire world (or the 467 commenters on her post at least…) seems to love the original just as is! One little side note… one day we would like to make our own, traditional enchilada sauce, for this recipe or others. We were just feeling a little too lazy today for finding and roasting our own chilies. But we can only imagine how much better this soup would be when substituting authentic homemade enchilada sauce for the canned stuff!
Ok y’all, I know I say things like this all the time, but… This dip is SO easy to make and SO worth it. Bring this to your next family gathering, book club, or just make it for tomorrow’s dinner! It’s spicy without being overpowering. And everyone loves feta cheese!
On that note, now is a good time to talk about feta again. There is feta cheese and then there is feta cheese. If you bring someone from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Israel, France, or, you know, basically anywhere else in the world, to the United States and show them the crumbly stuff that we sell in our grocery stores as feta – prepare to be laughed at. It is just nowhere near as good as what they have. But fear not! We Americans now have access to much better qualities of feta (usually imported from Europe or the Middle East) pretty easily here. Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods will always have some, your local grocery store might in some areas, and if those all fail, it’ll give you the opportunity to check out your nearest Middle Eastern market or international food shop! Look for feta in blocks, usually in brine. It’ll be wet and have some holes in it. While it crumbles easily between your fingers, it shouldn’t be dry and pre-crumbled for you. Believe me, I was a lover of American grocery store feta for years, so I’m not judging. But do yourself a favor and upgrade! Mmmmmm… feta 🙂
Also, you may have noticed if you read our blog semi-regularly (heyyy Baba, Aunt Suzanne, Mom 🙋🙋🙋), that we share recipes that make a wide variety of serving sizes. For example our Garlic & Truffle Pimento Cheese basically feeds an army, while this dip was easily eaten by the two of us tonight. This just goes to show you that we only share what we’re actually making for ourselves at any given time. We ate this dip with crudites to accompany some lahmacun tonight (perfect combo in case you were wondering!).
Spicy Feta Dip
(Recipe adapted from Sultan’s Kitchen: A Turkish Cookbook, by Özcan Ozan)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Juice from a lemon wedge
Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth.
Refrigerate until serving.
Top with a drizzle of olive oil when serving, if desired.
When I think about a dinner that screams SUMMER! – for whatever reason, my go-to is fish with a fruit salsa. I don’t know about y’all, but I always am more interested in fish in the summer – I can mentally transport myself to the ocean and pretend that fish just got hauled in a few minutes beforehand. And as for fruit salsa, that’s kind of a no-brainer. Who doesn’t appreciate the sweet, juicy bounty of summer harvest fruits? As you can see from one of our first recipes from last summer, I have a template when making a dish like this. Salmon (my favorite fish of the easily-accessible-at-the-grocery-store varieties) + spicy flavoring on the salmon + cool, juicy, & sweet contrasting salsa. Hey – if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it?
So here’s what I did for this recipe. I just made it up. Do not look here for authentic ratios of spices in a jerk spice blend. If you have Jamaican friends, send them the other direction – away from my inauthentic blog post! But if you’re not super-concerned about authenticity and want to test out some spicy hot baked wings… check out this recipe. I kept the wings whole and intact (mostly out of sheer laziness), but for more pieces and a more traditional wing look you can certainly portion them! A lot of time you can find them portioned in the store too. Here’s a nice breakdown on the chicken wing from The Kitchn. PS: The Kitchn is a great site for everything from recipes and how-tos to all sorts of tips & tricks of the trade.
Also, I am not joking about the spice level. Selim, who when asked in Indian or Thai restaurants for his preferred spice level answers, “However you would make it at home,” even thought these were spicy. I am way wimpier when it comes to spice, but I battled through. You can taste the other spices and even a hint of sweetness from the brown sugar despite the heat. It also helped that we paired this with cool and tangy Green Crema to keep our tongues from burning off. If you don’t want quite the five-alarm spice level, try cutting back on the crushed red pepper flakes in the recipe.
Baked Jerk Chicken Wings
3lbs of chicken wings
2 tbsp neutral oil
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp salt
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all of the spices in a small bowl or ramekin.
Toss wings with oil in a large bowl.
Sprinkle spice mixture over wings, tossing until all are well-coated.
Spread wings out on a foil-lined cookie sheet, skin side up.
Bake for 20 minutes and then flip to the other side. Bake 20 more minutes.
After the full 40 minutes, return the wings to the original side up. Turn the heat up to broil. Broil for just a minute or two, watching closely, so the skin crisps up. Areas of thick spice coverage may blacken a bit, which is fine, but don’t let the skin burn!
When Selim asked me to make dinner with some salmon tonight, I wanted to try something a little different than our usual. Our usual involves adding spices to a salmon fillet and broiling it. Selim is the master of this process. I am not.
So I googled “different way to make salmon.” Seriously. This is how sophisticated and worldly I am. After browsing around for a bit, a salmon cake recipe caught my eye. I grew up eating crab cakes like it was my job, but I don’t think I’ve ever had salmon cakes. I wanted to bake them instead of fry them in a nod to being a bit healthier. After Pinterest-ing for awhile, I found a recipe on the Baked by an Introvert blog that approximated what I was envisioning for tonight.
I’m really happy about how my version turned out. The salmon cakes are moist on the inside and just barely crisping up on the outside. Slicing them open with the edge of your fork releases a gratifying poof of steam. I love the flavor. If you’re one of those people who orders their Thai or Indian food at level 10, you probably won’t find this very spicy. But for the rest of us, it’s a nice, slowly-building spiciness.
I also made a cilantro lime aioli to top these guys, but am not super happy with it, so won’t share tonight. I think with just a few tweaks it’ll be perfect. A cool topping like that complements these salmon cakes perfectly though!
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Are they zucchini lobbyists like VEEP’s Dan Egan?” Well… that would be a cool job, but we’re pretty invested in anesthesia school. Zoodles aren’t too complex to make and are an easy way to get some extra vegetables in your life (never a bad thing). In terms of flavor, they add a subtle earthiness, but also take on the flavors you’re trying to highlight in a dish. The spices (chipotle, paprika, and cumin) shine and if you’re looking for a even more heat, toss in a pinch of cayenne or use hot instead of sweet paprika.
This recipe is adapted from another Pinterest find… The original inspiring recipe can be found on Mrs. Happy Homemaker‘s blog.
Caliente Chicken & Zoodles
Adapted from Mrs. Happy Homemaker blog
2 large zucchini
1 tsp of Kosher salt
1/3 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp safflower oil
8oz chicken thighs, cubed
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp Chipotle powder
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tbsp + 1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp Frank’s hot sauce
Prepare your zoodles. See this post if you don’t know how.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
Add the chicken to the pan and toss with the spices and 1 tsp of lime juice. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, still over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Remove the chicken from the pan. Do not clean/wipe out the pan.
Add the zoodles to the pan and cook uncovered for 2 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pan. Add the hot sauce, remaining lime juice, and chopped cilantro. Stir to combine.