Archive for the ‘main course’ Category

Thai Beef with Chiles and Basil Over Coconut Rice

BK and I are both big stir-fry fans, but I haven’t been making much lately because it just doesn’t seem that summery to me.  But this recipe used two of my garden items, hot peppers and basil, so I went for it.  Is it an authentic Thai dish?  I doubt it.  Is it tasty?  Yes, extremely.  Lots and lots of flavor.  We’ve made it several times and will put it in our regular rotation.

We used ground beef, but you could use turkey, lamb, pork, or chicken also.  The first time I made it, I wasn’t sure what “long hot peppers” were.  My plan was to go to the grocery store and literally look for a long, hot pepper.  I found one and then looked at the label: it said “long hot pepper.”  So, although extraordinarily boring, it is a proper name for something.   I used three and it wasn’t very spicy.  So, the next time, I tried for spice by making it with jalapeno chiles, but couldn’t find red ones.  Instead, I used 2 of my spicy salsa peppers from the backyard.  The spice adds a nice kick, and you can use the rice to cool  your mouth off.  Enjoy!


1 ¼ cups jasmine rice
1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
coarse salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 long hot peppers or 2 red jalapeno chiles, seeded and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1 ¼ pounds ground beef sirloin
1 cup loosely packed torn fresh basil leaves
lime wedges for serving


In a medium saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, ¾ cup water, and ½ teaspoon salt.  Cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.

When rice is almost done, combine fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl; set aside.  Heat a cast-iron skillet or wok over high.  Add oil and heat; add garlic and half the chiles.  Cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds.  Add beef and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until completely browned, about 4 minutes.  Thoroughly drain fat.  Add soy mixture and cook 30 seconds.  Add basil and remaining chiles and stir to combine.  Serve beef over coconut rice with lime wedges.

Adapted from

Chicken Cobb Burgers

In the summer, BK routinely has hankerings for Cobb Salad.  I, myself, very much enjoy it as well, but have come to terms with the fact that unless I have it for lunch with some good bread, I’m going to be hungry an hour later.  BK has not come to terms with this.  In fact, just the other night he ordered Cobb Salad.  I warned him, but he got it anyway and then sure enough, as soon as we got home, he announced he was hungry.

When I saw this recipe for Chicken Cobb Burgers, I knew it was for us…Cobb Salad, but filling!  The burgers are really delicious…BK had the leftovers the next day for lunch and told me repeatedly that he wished we had made more.  In fact, when I was editing the photos, I turned to look at him and he was staring at the computer screen with a crazy glint in his eye…I think he was contemplating trying to grab the burger out of the computer screen…

We discussed making this with chicken breast instead of ground chicken.  Its a pretty big burger though, and the chicken breast results in a softer burger that probably makes it easier to eat without everything sliding out.  If you use chicken breast, it would certainly taste good, but could be messier and harder to eat.


For the burgers:
8 (½-thick) strips bacon
1 ½ pounds ground chicken, 90 percent lean
2 tablespoons canola oil
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (can certainly use more if desired)
1 large beefsteak tomato cut into 4 slices
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 8 slices

For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely shredded romaine lettuce


Make the vinaigrette.  Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using to allow the flavors to meld.  Just before assembling the burgers, place the romaine in a medium bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.

Heat the grill to medium.  Place the strips of bacon on the grill (lay them across the grate so they don’t fall through) and grill for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Increase the heat of the grill to high.

Form the meat into 4 (8-ounce) burgers, brush with the oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.  Grill the burgers until golden brown on both sides and cooked completely through, about 5 minutes per side.  Top the burgers with the blue, close the cover, and continue cooking until the cheese begins to melt, about 1 minute longer. (I found it kind of hard to top the burgers with the crumbly blue cheese while they are on the grill.  I did my best and then put more on after we took the burgers off the grill…it still melted.)

Place the burgers on the bottom half of each bun and top with a slice of tomato, 2 slices of avocado, 2 slices of bacon and some of the dressed romaine.  Cover each burger with the bun tops and serve.

Slightly adapted from Bobby Flay via Food Network.

Disappearing Zucchini Orzo

I traveled to Chicago for work the other month and had dinner with one of my dear friends, The Parakeet.   We both support the idea of buying locally grown food and she recommended the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver.  Its the story of a family that eats only local produce and meat for an entire year — quite the challenge!

The book was great, and the chapter on zucchini cracked me up.  It describes how zucchinis are so prolific during the summer months in the author’s farming community that people are desperate to get rid of them.  The author’s family would routinely come home to find a gift bag full of zucchini anonymously left hanging from their mailbox.  And instead of being mad, they’d think, “that is a *great* idea!”

In the spirit of being over-zucchinified (yes, that is a word), they came up with the recipe below, which I have adapted slightly, to help their zucchini disappear.  It uses a ton of the vegetable, and I was nervous I would be asking myself the question “would you like some orzo with your zucchini?”  But the final product definitely does not taste over-zucchinified…its fresh and delicious.  Perfect for me, since even the one plant’s worth of zucchini I have is a lot for just one person to eat!  I even got to put the onions in it since the zucchini had already disqualified it from BK consumption!


¾ pound orzo pasta
1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic
3 large zucchini

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
½ cup grated parmesan or any hard yellow cheese
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


Bring 6 cups water or chicken stock to a boil and add pasta.  Cook al dente.

Use a cheese grater or mandoline to shred zucchini, sauté briefly with chopped onion and garlic until lightly golden.  Add spices to zucchini mixture, stir thoroughly, and then remove mixture from heat.

Combine with cheese and cooked orzo, salt to taste, serve warm or at room temperature.

Slightly adapted from “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” by Barbara Kingsolver.

Mexican Club Sandwich

Years ago, our local paper published the recipe for one of my favorite mexican restaurant’s club sandwich.   It quickly became a staple at our mealtimes, but has been on an extended moratorium lately.   A while back, I was heading out on a longer-than-usual work trip and made a batch of these for BK to eat while I was gone.  I know some might think that this was very old-fashioned of me, but really its just practical: I worry that if I don’t make food, I will come home to find BK has starved to death while standing in front of our pantry full of food and insisting that there is nothing to eat.

In any case, after eating four of these sandwiches in a few days, BK informed me he would not be able to stomach another for quite some time.  But the other week I informed him that I thought we should lift the moratorium.  He agreed we were ready.  And I’m so glad.  These sandwiches have everything: the four different kinds of protein make it hearty and satisfying; the onion slices provide a nice crunch; the jalapeno and chipotle give it a kick; the avocado adds a wonderful cool creaminess; and toasting it pulls everything together.

They keep pretty well, so feel free to bring the extras for lunch the next day.  For best leftover results, I’d recommend assembling ahead of time, but grilling and inserting the avocado right before you eat.  If that isn’t possible, make the full sandwich ahead of time and nuke it (with the avocado temporarily removed) for a bit before you eat.


4 slices bacon, cut in half to form 8 short pieces
2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 thin slices ham, cut in half to form 8 pieces
1 ½ tablespoons chipotle adobo sauce (from a can of adobo chili peppers)
1 ½ tablespoons low-fat sour cream
1 ½ tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
4 hoagie rolls or 4 ciabatta rolls about 6 by 4 ½ inches
1 can nonfat refried beans
4 ounces shredded or thinly sliced Chihuahua cheese (may substitute sliced muenster or provolone cheese)
½ cup thinly sliced white onion
2 pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and cut into thin slices


Heat a nonstick grill pan or George Foreman over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp; transfer to drain on paper towels.

While the bacon is cooking, cut each piece of chicken horizontally to form 2 equal portions, for a total of 4; place between 2 layers of plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness of 1/2 inch. Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper to taste.

Wipe the excess fat from the grill pan or George Foreman, add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes on 1 side until lightly browned, then turn and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the ham to the grill pan or George Foreman for a few minutes to crisp it up a bit.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.

While the chicken and ham are cooking, combine the chipotle adobo sauce, sour cream and mayonnaise in a small bowl.

Cut the rolls in half lengthwise. Line them up on a large cutting board or work surface covered with wax paper. Spread the chipotle mixture on the cut sides of the bottom halves of the ciabatta; spread the refried beans on the cut sides of the top halves. Cut the chicken into pieces as necessary to cover the chipotle spread. Layer the ham, crisped bacon and cheese, pressing down as you go. Scatter the onion and jalapeno pepper slices on the cheese, and complete the sandwiches with the top halves of the ciabatta.

If necessary, spray the same grill pan with nonstick cooking oil spray and heat over medium to medium-low heat; as an alternative, heat a George Foreman grill or panini press.  Add as many sandwiches as will fit, bottom side down, weighing them down (if using a grill pan) with a heavy cast-iron skillet or a plate with heavy cans on top.  If using a grill pan, cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly browned and crisp and turn the sandwiches over and cook about 2 minutes on the second side.  If using a George Foreman or panini press, grill for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp .  Transfer the sandwiches to the cutting board or work surface and open them between the chicken and ham layers. Add several slices of avocado and sprinkle lightly with salt.  Re-close the sandwiches.  Invert to right side up and cut in half, pressing down firmly.  Serve warm.

Adapted from “Rosa’s New Mexican Table,” by Roberto Santibanez, via The Washington Post, June 2007.

BBQ Chicken and Grilled Veggie Revelation

My feelings about BBQ chicken could have really been summed up as “meh.”  Until now.  It was BK’s turn to pick dinner and BBQ chicken it was.  I faithfully basted the little guys with some BBQ sauce and let them sit for a few hours.  Then we grilled.

Well, I don’t even know what to say.  They were crispy and carmelized and BK cooked them just perfectly.  Its been two days and I can’t stop thinking about that amazing BBQ chicken…

Who knew?

Same with the vegetables.  I don’t dislike veggies, but I don’t gobble them up.  But zucchini, onions, potatoes, asparagus or peppers brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with some coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, then grilled so they have a bit of char on them?  So good.  I know this probably falls into the “how were you so completely unaware of this” camp, but I just love them.  And lucky for me, BK hates onions and zucchini, so I get them all to myself.  I gobbled them up.  Just like a turkey.  Gobble gobble.

P.S.  In case you were wondering, that first home-grown zucchini tasted amazing.  Like freshness and butter and hard, hard work battling amazon plants and bugs.


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