Greek Chicken Burger

It was burger week for Amanda and me with our latest Distance Dishes date. While I don’t crave them often, something about that warm, summer air that has been moving in made me want to bite into a nice, juicy burger. While classic beef burgers are all well and good, we wanted to experiment with some alternatives for when red meat just won’t do.

Amanda got creative with a vegetarian version soon to come, but Mediterranean flavors were calling my name. With a heavily seasoned patty topped with a refreshing tzatziki, this burger packs an amazing flavor punch while still feeling refreshing. Biting into this delicious sandwich topped with fresh vegetables is quite the reward for standing over a hot grill (or pan).

One tip I will say Amanda and I both learned is not make your patties too thick or you’ll be waiting forever for that middle to cook. I had to delay our skype date because I was waiting for a safe internal temperature forever. The picture above is an eight ounce patty, but I’ve adjusted the recipe below. Learn from my mistakes 😉

Greek Chicken Burger Patty:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 mini bell pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup cooked spinach, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Instructions: 

  1. In a large bowl, hand mix together all ingredients so that everything is well incorporated into the meat.
  2. Form into 4 patties and cook in a pan or grill over medium heat until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Then, they are ready for assembly.

Tzatziki

  • 1/4 cucumber, shredded
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped dill

Instructions: 

  1. Whisk together all ingredients and chill until ready to use.

Assembly/Toppings:

  • Ciabatta Rolls
  • Tomato
  • Red onion slices
  • Lettuce
  • Tzatziki

Assemble as desired and top burger with Tzatziki. If you’d like, serve with the Grilled Balsamic Zucchini and enjoy!

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Wine Pairing: For this meal, I wanted to try out a new pitcher and actually made a Summery Wine Punch (below) to add to the summery vibes. However, for a true pairing, actually a Pinot Noir might stand up to the tartness of the Tzatziki  while also balancing out the flavor profile. 

Summer Wine Punch: 

  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 1 qt pink lemonade
  • 4 oz pineapple juice
  • Fresh, sliced strawberries for garnish

Add all ingredients into a pitcher, stir and serve with ice.

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mango Cilantro Sauce

Wanting to live vicariously through Amanda’s recent vacation to the sparkling shores of Miami, we decided to cook up our best tropical inspired meals to keep the vacation magic alive. I, being nowhere near a beach now or in the near future, was a big fan of this idea. While munching on something with these tropical flavors is undoubtedly more enjoyable while breathing in the fresh sea air and listening to waves crash in the background, I’ll take what I can get.

Since I’m currently and tragically landlocked, and any attempt at obtaining fresh, Caribbean fish seemed futile, I opted for pork. Recently, I’ve been on a bit of a cilantro kick and I knew I wanted those fresh, albeit divisive, flavors to be included. Fortunately, cilantro pairs wonderfully with mango and nothing screams tropical to me more than the bold and tart flavors of the mango. This slow roasted pork tenderloin topped with the coconut sauce was enough to give me the taste of the vacation I didn’t have, even if I couldn’t quite smell the ocean air.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin:

  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Mango Cilantro Sauce

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups diced mango (I used frozen)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped into fine pieces.
  • salt
  • lime juice
  • 2 Serrano peppers, minced.
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil (or canola/vegetable oil)

Instructions:

  1. For the pork tenderloin, pre-heat the oven to 375°F. Combine the garlic powder, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and spread onto the pork tenderloin until all surfaces are covered.
  2. Place tenderloin in a roasting pan and roast in the pre-heated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until the internal temperature is at least 145°F. Allow to rest outside the oven for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
  3. While the pork is roasting (probably about 20 minutes before done), prepare the sauce. In a small pot over medium heat, add the onion, garlic, salt and grapeseed oil. Stir until the onions are fragrant and semi-translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the coconut milk, mango, and the Serrano peppers. Allow this to simmer until reduced by at least 1/3 and thickened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and add the cilantro and lime juice. Wait for the cilantro to wilt and then transfer mixture to a blender (once cooled slightly). Pulse until the mango chunks are smooth and the cilantro is well incorporated–about 30 seconds to 1 minute. You can also use an immersion blender for this step if preferred.
  6. Transfer back to the stove to warm until the tenderloin is ready. Slice the rested pork tenderloin, and top with sauce. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: While I’ll admit, I actually decided to make rum runners instead for this dish to get the full beach bar experience from my couch, I would say that an aromatic white wine, such as a chenin blanc would work nicely.

 

Farmer’s Market Challenge: One-Pan Steak with Spring Onions and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

It’s been spring in Florida since…February, basically…so I was so excited when Merideth’s true seasonal weather cleared up and we could do this Farmer’s Market challenge! There is a wonderful farmer’s market near where she and I went to college, so it felt extra fun to go revisit it for our post! Dragging my dog around the market (she had to sniff everything) was a fun experience and I definitely think I’ll be going back for fresh ingredients and the great community vibe.

Merideth and I set the ground rules that our dishes had to be made from the ingredients at the farmer’s market plus three home ingredients, salt, and pepper. After lots of wandering following the dog, I finally settled on some Brussels sprouts, spring onions, and cucumber. I had a steak at home and some butter and garlic to round out the menu. Not knowing how to incorporate the cucumber, I just ate it.

Being limited by ingredients pushed me to think more carefully about the preparation to impart extra flavor and, consequently, I decided to use my favorite technique: the one pan meal. Ingredients are added one after the other, so prepare the veggies and steak first to decrease total cooking time.

Ingredients

  • 1 ribeye steak (approximately 4-6oz)
  • 1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 bushel spring onions, trimmed halved
  • 4tbs butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt 2tbs butter over medium heat in a cast iron pan, and add minced garlic.
  2. Saute onions in butter, turning occasionally, under tender (about 6-8 minutes). Remove onions and place in covered bowl.
  3. Season halved Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper. Melt additional tbs butter in pan, or as needed to cover bottom of pan.
  4. Add Brussels sprouts to pan and sear for 3 minutes. Turn and sear for an additional 4 minutes, or until tender. Remove sprouts and add to bowl with onions to keep warm.
  5. Pat steak dry and season with salt and pepper. Lay steak away from you in the pan to avoid burns from the hot butter. Using tongs, pick up steak after 3 minutes and hold fatty sides of steak again for about 10-15 seconds the pan to render the fat.
  6. Lay steak on opposite side and cook until desired doneness (I left it for another 2-3 minutes for medium rare. With about a minute left, add onions and Brussels sprouts to reheat and infuse flavor.
  7. Transfer contents to a plate and enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Because of the steak, char from the cast iron pan, and the simple seasoning of salt and pepper, this dish is good with a full-flavored red wine like cabernet. I had a local wine to go with the locally sourced vegetables!

 

Farmers Market Challenge: Asparagus & Sausage Pasta Bowl

Feeling inspired by our favorite cooking challenge shows, Amanda and I decided this week to give ourselves a bit of a challenge. Since I needed to get out and discover more of the area in which I live, and the warmer weather was in full swing, we decided on a farmers market challenge. The rules: try and get as many ingredients to create a dish from your local farmers’ market as you can. Everything in the dish must be made with something from the market with a few exceptions. The protein, salt & pepper, and three other ingredients to be personally determined could be used in addition to the fresh market items. It seemed simple…until I went to the market.

Let’s just say, the turnout was a bit underwhelming. There was one vendor of vegetables, and not much variety at that. However, the real treat of the day was a local farm selling their own meat. We picked up some locally produced pork sausages from this vendor, and then traipsed over to the vegetable cart to acquire some asparagus and garlic. This was my not so impressive haul from the market, although I suspect with the recent flooding in the area that it might not be typical. Needless to say, I looked at my purchases like a stressed-out contestant on Chopped, wondering what to do next. There was also a chocolate covered pretzel purchased, but that was promptly eaten on the ride home.

In the end, I used my three TBD ingredients (lemon, pasta and saffron) to put together this surprisingly quick and easy pasta dish and I will definitely be keeping it in mind for future weeknight dinners. The sausage added so much flavor that no other seasonings we needed, although the saffron did add a nice flavor if desired. I gobbled up this meal more enthusiastically and more quickly than many others I had made for this, and cleanup was a breeze.

Ingredients: 

  • 4 oz small pasta, I used rotini, but orzo or shells would work too.
  • Water for boiling.
  • 15 threads of saffron (optional)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 chicken or pork sausages of your choice, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 10-15 stalks of asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • Freshly squeezed juice of half of a lemon
  • Pepper to Taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, add enough cold water to handle the amount of pasta you have, probably no less than 1 quart, but more if needed. Add the saffron threads if using and the salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6-10 minutes depending on your pasta. Once finished, strain the pasta, but do  not rinse.
  3. While the pasta is boiling, add the sausage slices to a skillet over medium heat and allow to brown for about 3-4 minutes. Add the asparagus and the garlic, which should be able to cook in the rendered fat from the sausages.
  4. Cook over medium heat for another 4-5 minutes until the asparagus is bright green and everything is cooked through.
  5. Add the drained pasta and stir to incorporate and re-warm the pasta.
  6. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, stir and serve! Top with pepper to taste.

Wine Pairing: This dish just seems so spring-like to me, maybe because of the journey to the market and eating on a warm spring evening before the sun sets. Because of this, a chilled glass of pinot gris just feels right. 

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A Trio of Tea Sandwiches

While reality television has never quite captured my attention, Amanda has recently gotten me hooked on a little show about the elite of Charleston called Southern Charm. The fourth season recently premiered and the Amanda household was kind enough to include me via Skype for their premier-watching party. Naturally, I wanted to make a meal that allowed me to feel the elegance and flavors of the south and to celebrate with the Florida crew in spirit.

I wanted to make something light, summery, and fancy-feeling that both touched on a southern classic (pimento cheese! yum!) but also represented the class of our favorite character on the show. Therefore, this trio of tea sandwiches–two savory and one sweet–was the perfect option for a viewing party (even if it was a party of one) and let me pretend I was one of the Southern Charm gang at one of their fancy garden parties (but without any drama or drinks thrown in faces).

Spicy Cilantro Cucumber Sandwich:

  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 4 oz can green chiles
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, freshly shredded
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly

Instructions:

  1. Combine cilantro, spinach, chiles, jalapeno and lime juice in a food processor and pulse until you have a fine puree. Add this mixture to a small bowl with the cream cheese and stir until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto 3 of the white bread slices and top with cucumber slices. Top with the other 3 slices of bread to form 3 separate sandwiches.
  3. Trim edges and slice into triangles, and they are now ready to serve!

Pimento & Pulled Chicken Tea Sandwich:

  • 4 oz of cream cheese
  • 2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
  • 4 oz jar of pimento peppers, drained and rinsed
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 6 slices of white bread

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the all ingredients (it does make it a bit easier if the chicken is still warm).
  2. Spread onto 3 slices of the white bread as thick and even as you can manage.
  3. Top with the other 3 slices of white bread to form 3 sandwiches.
  4. Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to serve!

Sweet Strawberry Mascarpone Tea Sandwich

  • 3/4 cup of strawberries, trimmed of greens and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • Loaf of angel food cake or pound cake
  • 3-4 large strawberries, trimmed of greens and sliced longways-thinly

Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the strawberries, sugar and salt and cook for about 5 minutes until the sugar is liquified and the strawberries are mushy
  2. Pass this mixture through a fine sieve to filter out the seeds and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Once cooled, mix together the strawberry puree and the mascarpone cheese until fully incorporated and there are no white specs in the cheese.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the cheese to cool.
  5. Slice the angel food cake/pound cake into 1/4″ thick slices.
  6. Spread the strawberry mascarpone onto one slice of bread and then top with sliced strawberries. Add another slice of the cake to the top. Trim edges and slice into triangles. Ready to Serve!

Drink Pairing: With these yummy sandwiches, I decided to forego wine this time in favor of a more Charleston representative cocktail: 2 parts firefly sweet tea vodka, 2 parts pink lemonade and 1 part firefly peach tea moonshine. Be warned though, these little numbers are tasty and dangerous. 

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Easter Lamb Shank and Side Dishes

This was our first recipe Amanda and I cooked together when we first had this idea to keep in touch through food and it was right around Easter last year! We decided for our first meal together, we wanted to cook the same dish so we’d have something to discuss on our skype dates. Our first meal was something of a departure from my usual dinner rotation recipes and it was a new experience in both cooking and eating for me. We decided to cook one of the traditional Easter recipes, a leg of lamb. However, upon examining the goods at the grocery store, we quickly and independently decided that a whole leg of lamb was entirely too much (much to my husband’s dismay) and decided on lamb leg shanks: much smaller and more economical.

To start, we both seasoned our lamb shanks similarly, and I decided to serve my lamb with a simple cauliflower mash and roasted green beans. It was the perfect introductory meal to our new food and communication goals which have so far been successful and a blast to continue.

Roasted Lamb Shank Ingredients:

  • 1 lamb shank, on the bone
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
  2. Trim the lamb shank of any large, unwanted pieced of fat, although it is not necessary.
  3. mix together the garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and marjoram in a small bowl. Rub lamb shank with spice mixture and place in on rack in roasting pan.
  4. Add sprinkle some of the fresh rosemary over the lamb shank and add the remaining sprigs to the top for cooking.
  5. Place lamb shank on rack of roasting pan* and cook in oven for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160°F for Medium or 170°F for well done. I would recommend removing from the oven a few degrees lower than your desired temperature, covering with foil and allowing to rest for 10 minutes to keep everything juicy.
  6. Serve with vegetables of your choice, or the two recipes I made follow.

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*I did not have a specific roasting pan, so I fashioned these foil tubes to lift the shank above the floor of the pan so that it was not sitting in its own juices, and it seemed to work in a pinch. 

Cauliflower Mash Ingredients:

 

  • 1 head of cauliflower cut into rough florets
  • 2 cloves of garlic-minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Additional herbs to your liking ( I added a bit of rosemary, some oregano and thyme to tie to the lamb)

Instructions:

  1. Place the cauliflower in a large pot and pour in enough water to cover, you can salt the water a bit if you like
  2. Bring to boil and cook for 5-10 minutes until fork tender
  3. Drain and let the cauliflower cool a bit until it is suitable for a food processor
  4. Place in food processor with salt, pepper and any additional herbs and blend until smooth
  5. Reheat over low heat if necessary and serve

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Balsamic Roasted Green Beans Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of green beans ends removed
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Spread green beans on a baking sheet and sprinkle on all other ingredients
  3. Use hands to toss ingredients together so that beans are well coated
  4. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes and enjoy!

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Wine Pairing: It makes sense that our first recipe would pair well with one of our favorite and most readily available wines. Because lamb has notes of traditional beefy flavors while also being pleasingly different, a fruit forward cabernet would be a great match with this dish. Happy cooking!

Japanese Style Curry & Chicken Katsu with Satay Spices

This weekend, I found myself home alone which has become a bit more rare in married life. Therefore, Amanda and I got to talking about meals we like to make when no one else is home and we have the whole kitchen and day to ourselves. While I like to use these home alone days to delve into new culinary experiments, I do often love to use this time to treat myself to an old comforting favorite that I could probably eat every night of the week. Of course, for me, this means one of two meals: Curry, or Chicken Satay.

While these two meals are hardly exotic or out of the realm of Amanda’s and my normal cooking, I wanted to combine these two favorites to create the ultimate comfort meal with leftovers enough to entertain me for the rest of the weekend should I decide sip wine and watch rom-coms for the rest of the time alone. This can be as hands off as you’d like once you get past making the roux (which can be done in advance or you can buy this part), or you can go more traditional with the actual frying of the chicken if you’re feeling it. The possibilities are what you’d like to make of it! The results are something I’ll certainly be adding to my comfort food rotation and I hope you like it too.

Satay Spice Blend

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, if desired

Satay Marinated Chicken Katsu Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp Satay spice blend
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp Mirin
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts butterflied and pounded thin
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp butter (if pan frying)

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl mix together the spice blend, cilantro, water, soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil until blended.
  2. Place the butterflied and pounded chicken breasts into a large zip-top bag or a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the chicken. Make sure the chicken is fully covered by the marinade and allow to sit in the refrigerator (covered/sealed) for 8-24 hours.
  3. Once the time has passed, prepare 3 shallow dishes (or paper plates for easy cleanup). Add your flour to one, the egg to the second (and scramble it) and the panko with some salt and pepper to taste to the third. Remove the chicken from the marinated and try to shake off any excess liquid.
  4. Dip the chicken first into the flour and shake off the excess, then dip into the egg and then the panko ensuring even coating at each step. Repeat with additional breasts.
  5. The traditional Katsu is fried, but you can either pan fry with 2-3 tbsp of butter over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side or you can bake on a greased wire rack over a baking sheet at 350°F for 30 minutes if you want a lower maintenance approach. Slice and serve with the curry.

Curry Roux:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp satay spice blend

Instructions: 

  1. Over low heat, heat the flour and butter in a small saucepan,stirring constantly so it does not burn.
  2. Once the butter has melted, continue stirring over heat for 20-30 minutes. The mixture should thicken and take on a light brown color.
  3. Add the garam masala and satay spices and heat for about 30 more seconds until the mixture is thick and there is little liquid left.
  4. Allow to cool and use immediately or refrigerate until needed. It will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week or you can freeze for up to a year if needed.

Curry Sauce:

  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Remainder of satay spice blend
  • Curry roux from above or store-bought cubes.
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ chunks, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes to remove starch
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • Cooked white rice to serve

Instructions: 

  1. Over medium heat in a large saucepan, add the oil, onions and spices to the pan and cook until the onions are semi-translucent and fragrant.
  2. Add the carrots and potatoes to the pan and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the broth, roux and salt to the pan and bring to a simmer. Stir to incorporate the roux, and simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  4. Serve with white rice and the breaded chicken. Enjoy!

Alternate Pressure Cooker instructions: 

  1. If you’re looking to have a maintenance free night, saute the onions, oil and spices in the pressure cooker. Then add all other ingredients and cook on high pressure for 20 minutes. Valve release the pressure and spoon over white rice and add your chicken.

Wine Pairing: Since these flavors are pretty unique and loud by themselves, I’d go with a Pinot Grigio to lighten it up a bit. 

Baby Back Ribs-Three Methods

Amanda and I have been friends for quite a while so it’s not too surprising when we’re in sync. This post was a happy accident since we had been discussing how we were culinarily going to enjoy the big game (as we often do–other people must think I’m so nosy when I ask what they plan to cook that long weekend/holiday/etc but I just want to go on a food journey with everyone!) and we had both independently decided on ribs!

I had recently received an electric pressure cooker over the holidays, which I am quite enjoying and I had heard that ribs were the real masterpiece to come out of one of those appliances. Naturally, this seemed like the perfect excuse to try these out.

Sadly, I also had to say goodbye to my trusty Immersion Circulator after it malfunctioned beyond repair, but I happily replaced it with a different brand and was anxious to try it out! I have so far stayed away from sharing any Sous Vide recipes on this blog, though it is the small appliance I use probably the most in my kitchen (yes, more than my rice cooker). Immersion Circulators are gaining popularity but they’re still very niche and aren’t quite making an appearance in everyone’s homes as say, a slow cooker. Thankfully, since Amanda was also feeling making some ribs in a more accessible way, we decided to utilize and share all three methods! Sadly, there are no pictures of the oven method at the moment because Amanda’s results were so delicious they disappeared before photographing but spoiler alert: you pretty much can’t go wrong here.

Ingredients:

  • One Rack of Baby Back Pork Ribs,
  • Salt & Pepper, and optionally any dry rub blend of your choice.
  • 1 8oz bottle of your favorite Barbeque sauce (having lived in Texas I’m partial to Stubbs, Franklin’s and Salt Lick brands).
  • 3/4 cup of beef broth or water (for the Pressure cooker method only)

Amanda’s Oven Method Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Season the ribs with salt/pepper/dry rub of choice and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake the ribs for one hour or until internal temperature reaches at least 190°F. Brush with sauce and serve.

Electric Pressure Cooker Method Instructions: 

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  1. Season the ribs with salt/pepper and any additional seasonings of your choice if desired. Portion the ribs in to 2-3 rib sections so they will fit in the cooker.
  2. Add about 1/4 cup of your bottle of barbecue sauce along with 3/4 cup of liquid (water or broth) to the bottom of the pressure cooker. Add your rib portions to the pot by stacking them or lining the sides. Don’t worry if everything is not submerged.
  3. Close the lid of your pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 40 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
  4. Once the pressure is released, open your pressure cooker and spoon some of the sauce in the bottom over all of the ribs (carefully!).
  5. Preheat your broiler to high. Remove the ribs from the cooker and place them onto a sheet pan.
  6. Brush the ribs with your bottled barbecue sauce and broil for 2 minutes on each side.
  7. Brush with additional sauce if desired and enjoy!

Instructions (Sous Vide Method)–This one takes a while so plan accordingly

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  1. Preheat a water bath with your immersion cooker to 145 degrees (62 C).
  2. Slice the ribs into manageable sections–about 2-3 rib portions.
  3. Season the ribs with salt, pepper.
  4. Place the ribs into sealable, airtight plastic bags (see step 4 on options for bags) that the ribs are not stacked on top of one another, but they can be next to each other. If you need multiple bags for this, go for it. Add about 1-2 tbsp of your favorite barbecue sauce to each bag with ribs inside.
  5. Seal the meat in the bags using one of two methods:
    1. You can use traditional zip top bags (I’d recommend a heavy duty, freezer type bag) and using water displacement. To do this, place the bag into the water bath with a small portion of the top unsealed and sink as the air escapes through the top. Try to get out as much air as you can and seal fully. Secure in the water bath with a clip to prevent floating.
    2. Use a vacuum food sealer system if you happen to have one. If you are fortunate to have a Sous Vide Cooker in your home, I cannot recommend a food sealer enough.Make sure you use the “wet” sealing option if you have it since there is sauce in the bag.
  6. Secure the ribs in the water bath and cook for 18-24 hours.
  7. Once timing is finished, remove from the bags, place on a sheet pan. Brush with additional sauce if desired and broil in the oven for about 2 minutes on each side. This is not completely necessary from a cooking standpoint, but does make for a yummy looking finished product.
  8. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Since the perfect complement can really depend on your sauce or rub preferences, you could  go as bold as a Zinfandel, but I think a nice, chilled Rosé would go great with any of your customizations. The lightness and tartness would pair well with those notes in the sauce, and it adds a summery, grill-out type of feel to your evening. Happy sipping!

Grown Up “Spaghetti-O’s”

For this week, Amanda and I were looking to make a dish that could be served in a bowl. She went above and beyond and made an amazing Gumbo, so I wanted to go for a more simple, weeknight vibe. When I think back on an easy, comforting dinner in a bowl from my childhood, that can of Spaghetti-O’s which were only minutes from de-tinning to dinner table came to mind.

Of course, posting an article about opening a can would have made for a very easy Distance Dishes skype date with Amanda but probably not the best writing, so I wanted to adult-up this classic a bit. I’ve recently been on a spinach kick so I thought that might be an easy, delicious way to add some nutrition and color to perhaps make that glass of wine with dinner a little less guilt-inducing. Additionally, this recipe can easily be vegan-ified by using non-dairy milk and omitting the sausages if you prefer.

The beauty of this dish is it can be as simple or as complicated as you like. The recipe calls for some tomato sauce which can be bought or homemade. I made a Basic Tomato Sauce to go in this dish which can be built upon your tastes, or you go for that jar in the store if that’s what makes you happy! Either way, this makes for a nice, simple dinner with some healthy elements so you can treat yourself later.

Ingredients: 

  • 3-4 Italian chicken sausages, casings removed
  • 8 oz of small, cooked pasta
  • 1 cup of the starchy pasta water
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy works)
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional, could also use a sharp cheese or omit altogether)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt to taste depending on your tomato sauce
  • 2 cups baby spinach

Instructions:

  1. Remove the casings from the chicken sausages if they have them. Slice into 1/2″ thick pieces and sear in a pan until fully cooked/heated.
  2. Meanwhile, cook your pasta in salted water and drain while al dente. Be sure to save 1 cup of the starchy water for the sauce.
  3. In a medium saucepan, heat the tomato sauce over low-medium heat and add the starchy water, milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes and a small pinch of salt if needed.
  4. Once fully incorporated and heated through, remove from heat. Stir in the spinach and allow to wilt in the sauce for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stir in your pasta and sausages and serve. Goes well with some nice, crusty bread as well.

Wine Pairing: Since this can be on the spicy side with the sausages and the pepper flakes, you want a wine that can stand up to those flavors. While this is hardly authentic, you could keep with the Italian theme and go with a Chianti to pair. Usually a Chianti is bold enough to go with a lot of seasoning, and should bring out the flavors nicely. 

Basic Tomato Sauce

This is a great, basic sauce that can be enjoyed on your favorite pasta or can be part of a bigger recipe, such as the “Grown Up Spaghetti-O’s”. You can customize this recipe with your preferred tastes by adding more herbs of your liking, but this can be a great starting point wherever your saucy cooking may take you.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin) or vegetable oil
  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced.
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tbsp basil, chiffonade
  • 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper

Instructions: 

  1. In a wide saute pan or saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.
  2. Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and saute until the onions are becoming translucent and the mixture is fragrant.
  3. Add your tomatoes, basil and a bit of salt and pepper (you can add more later) and lower the heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes.
  4. Using an immersion blender or allowing the mixture to cool slightly and transferring to a regular blender (be careful of the heat) break up the larger chunks of vegetables to your preferred consistency.
  5. Taste your sauce and adjust the salt/pepper level to your liking and it is ready to serve on top of pasta, as a bread dipping sauce or any other purpose you’d like. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Although you can also wait until you choose a protein to choose your wine pairing, tomatoes can certainly be the dominating flavor of a dish. A Sangiovese might pair nicely with this sauce which is usually tart, and can be rustic with higher acidity. This can be a nice addition to the tomato sauce here. Enjoy!

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