Category Archives: Dinner

Chicken, Olive, and Lemon Tagine (Djaj Mqualli) over Sauteed Kale and Israeli Coucous

One night, Kevin invited some new friends over for dinner and I didn’t want to make anything complicated so I chose this gem.  It did come with some small challenges.  The first was that I didn’t know what “cracked olives” were!! I did some googling and found that they are as simple as putting the olives on a cutting board and smacking them with the flat side of the blade.  Also, I could not find preserved lemons!!! After going to 4 different stores and not finding preserved lemons, I decided to make up a quick preserve method and allow them to preserve  prior to making the dinner.  This actually made for a brighter lemon flavor as the stew cook down, which really made the dish!!  What better way to welcome new friends than with a dish that that is as bright as our budding friendship?
This entry is for a whole meal, not just the main course and it came together rather quickly, so don’t be daunted!!!
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Ingredients

Optional: “Quick” Preserved lemons

4 lemons, washed, sliced into 1/4 inch slices and deseeded
1 C salt
4 C boiling water

Tagine
3 tbsp. olive oil
6 whole chicken legs cut into thighs and legs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 large yellow onions, sliced
2 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground white pepper
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
12 tsp. crushed saffron threads
12 cups chicken stock
6 oz. green olives, cracked or 6oz pitted green olives
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 jarred preserved lemons, cut into slices (or use 4 “quick” preserve lemons from above)
Sauteed Kale and Israeli CousCous
2 C Israeli or Pearl CousCous
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, sliced
1-10oz bag of baby kale or precut kale, larger stem pieces removed
1/2 C vegetable stock or water
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tsp. finely chopped cilantro

Instructions

**Optional**Make Quick Preserve Lemons: The morning you are going to cook, place all lemon slices into a wide mouth, 1 quart mason jar.  Add salt, and enough boiling water to reach the neck of the jar. Cap the jar with the lid and shake the jar until majority of the salt has dissolved, if there are still a few in the container then that’s ok.  Let the jar sit and shake it periodically.  When ready to make recipe, drain entire contents in a colander.

  1. Heat oven to 350°. Heat oil in an 8–qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper; add to pot and cook, turning, until browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Add onions to pot; cook until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add spices; cook for 2 minutes. Return chicken to pot with stock; boil. Stir in olives, butter, and lemons into pot, bake  until chicken is tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
  2. Make coucous according to package instructions, cover and set aside.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft. Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover, add parsley and cilantro, and continue to cook, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Combine couscous and sautéed kale, mix well.

To serve, spoon kale and couscous mixture into the center of plate, top with a piece of chicken. Spoon jus,  olives and several slices of cooked lemon over chicken.  Serve with reserved jus.

Who Brings Meatballs To a Cookie Exchange? –Slow Cooker Cranberry Barbecue Meatballs

 Who brings meatballs to a cookie exchange?  The answer is: this guy!  The annual cookie exchange came along and normally the party happens after work at someone’s place and the rest of us would bring cookies, alcohol, and maybe chips and dip.  I don’t know about most of you, but after work I am ravenous!!!  I also wanted something that was quick and easy, something that I could just pack up and take with me since I would be rushing in and out of the house.  I was looking around and I found this recipe at Betty Crocker.com; I could throw everything in a Crock Pot, go to work, and everything will be done when I get home!
You know your dish went over well when there is nothing left, so make this and watch it disappear.
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Serves: 2 dozen
Ingredients
  • 1 cup barbeque sauce
  • 1 can cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 packages (16 ounces each) frozen meatballs, thawed
  •  1 tablespoon chopped parsley for garnish
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Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients except meatballs and parsley in a crockpot; you can use a for or a butter knife to mash up the cranberry sauce.  Mix well.
  2. Add meat balls and stir to coat.  Cover with lid and set crockpot on low for 3 hours or until thoroughly heated.
  3. After 3 hours,  remove the lid and give the mixture a good stir to make sure every meatball is coated.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley for a pop of color.
 NOTE:  Since I would be at work all day, I added 1/4 C cup of water to the mix and cooked everything on low for 8 hours.

The Kick-off and a Few Birthdays

IMG_5870While I was in Oklahoma City for Thanksgiving, Michael called me and suggested that we cook a formal sit down dinner for our friends instead of our normal tradition of a group of us going out to dinner for our birthdays.  IMG_5882Michael, Kevin and I have birthdays that come one right after another during the holidays, there are several factors during the holidays that play against our group of friends from getting together: the holidays, holiday travel, family gatherings, work IMG_5840_2gatherings, and booked restaurants!  The idea of a home cooked dinner really excited me as Michael, Kevin and I love to cook!  Michael and I quickly decided on what to make, a roast or turkey, green beans or potatoes, and (Oh my gosh!) we cannot forget about our vegetarian friends!!!  The menu was settled: Maple and Calvados Glazed Pork Crown Roast with Apple Chestnut Puree; White Lasagna with Swiss Chard, Leeks and Gruyere; Over the Top Creamed Brussels Sprouts Gratin; Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Parsley Puree; IMG_5891_2Challah Bread with Saffron, and for dessert, after much discussion, we ended up with Michael’s creation: a Maryann Cake with Caramelized Nuts and Chocolate Ganache.

We pretty much didn’t think about it any further until around early December when I realized that we should decide on a date and send out the invites before everyone’s schedules get booked up with family and holiday parties.  IMG_5879_2We agreed on January 3rd, 2015 as we wanted to get past all the holidays; I immediately sent out the invites by email.  Michael, Kevin and I also met up mid-December to discuss the details of the party.  We ironed out how many people we have to feed, if we have enough tableware and silverware, and who will cook what recipe.  Michael had a wonderful idea to have dinner out on our front deck with lights strung above and a view of the Hillsborough River from the tables.  I was worried that we couldn’t fit everyone on the deck!! IMG_5867_2

Michael would make the bread, lasagna and cake, Kevin would make the Brussels sprouts and I would make the roast. Leading up to the party, Kevin and I tried our best to remember to place an order for a sixteen rib crown roast; keep the house clean and clutter free; got our front and back decks fixed with help from my In-Laws; and cleaned up the yards as much as we could.IMG_5852_2

I have to add, there was a little bit of confusion after I placed the order for the crown roast.  IMG_5837_2I told the butcher that I would pick up the meat on Friday, January 3, 2015, but I suppose with all the holiday orders they thought I wanted it on Christmas eve! Imagine my surprise when I was at a Christmas service and I got a phone call telling me my roast was ready!  It wasn’t an issue, but it caused a lot of worry when I got another phone call on December 29th asking about the roast.

The day before the dinner we spent shopping for all the ingredients that we needed and I crossed my fingers about the crown roast.  IMG_5836 This was an all-day affair that took us on a personal tour of Tampa, from vegetables at Sanwa, to Cacciatore Brothers for the roast, to Cheese Please, and a small wild goose chase for gruyere.  We also stopped by The Taco Bus for lunch since all the focus on food was making us ravenous.  I must emphasize how important a step it was that when you plan for a party of this size, you must read the recipe beforehand and create an ingredient list for when you go shopping.  IMG_5835_2This made our shopping more efficient and quick!

No turning back now! We got back to the Riverhouse (mine and Kevin’s place) to divvy up our grocery items and do one last check to make sure we have everything we needed to make the food. Michael had brought over a table so we arranged the tables that evening to make sure we can indeed sit 16 people and we didIMG_5866 a quick inventory of chairs.  We also discussed the timing of the food since more than one item required the oven and we wanted everything to come out hot or warm and we had one last discussion on decorations.

The day of the party, Kevin prepared the Brussels sprouts in the morning, and set it aside.  Michael came over with the lasagna and cake that he had made the night previous and he quicklIMG_5857_2y made the nuts and chocolate ganache.  The meat was then removed from the fridge, seasoned, and allowed to marinate and come to room temperature.  Afterward, Michael and Kevin braided the Challah dough (after a brief braiding lesson).  While the dough was rising, we decided to grill the challah bread, as we did not have enough room in the oven.  The meat was in the oven at 2 o’clock to be removed by 6, at which point the oven temperature will be lowered and the lasagna and Brussels sprouts gratin can warm up by IMG_22266:30 for dinner.  Kevin then prepared the cheese appetizer trays and both he and Michael put the finishing touches on the tables (Kevin had a great idea to use folded paper cranes as place settings). Michael’s partner, Mark, brought flowers and arranged them with some bright pink bougainvillea cuttings from the back yard.  Everything was ready.

Guests started IMG_2230arriving, and we could not have asked for a better night!  The evening was a perfect 75 degrees with no humidity for a great dinner with friends, lights had been strung amongst the live oak’s limbs in our front yard, candles were lit, the chimnea was stoked, and dinner would be surrounded by a warm and magical glow.  This was the perfect setting for the kick off dinner of this site, and our birthdays!  All the recipes in this post can be found at the “Recent Recipes” tab.

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