THAI-MEATBALLS OVER WILTED BOK-CHOY

These turkey meatballs lean towards Thai cuisine, but I took a few departures and incorporated a Brazilian moqueca touch. If you want to make the meal heartier, serve some rice or noodles as side dishes. Soba would work great.

THAI-MEATBALLS WITH WILTED BOK-CHOY
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the meatballs (makes about 16)
2 pounds ground turkey (I use 85% fat)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon red curry paste
1 egg

for the sauce:
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon red curry paste
1 cup pureed tomatoes (canned is fine)
1 cup coconut milk (low-fat is ok)
2 tsp fish sauce
salt and pepper to taste
juice of one lime

for the bok-choy:
6 to 8 baby bok-choy, sliced in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
drizzle of soy sauce
drizzle of lime juice

Heat oven to 420F.
Make the meatballs combining all ingredients in a large bowl. Form 16 meatballs and place them on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Spray the foil lightly with olive oil, then spray lightly the surface of the meatballs also. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through baking time. Remove from the oven and reserve. This can be made hours or a day in advance.

Make the sauce. Heat the oil and sautéed the shallot for a few minutes until soft and fragrant. Add the red curry paste and cook for a minute or two, stirring. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, fish sauce, season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes, add the reserved meatballs and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Add the lime juice right before serving.

Make the bok-choy. Heat the oil on a large skillet. Add the bok-choy, cut side down, cook for a couple of minutes without moving them, to get a nice browning on the surface. Flip the pieces over, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle soy sauce, lime juice, cover the pan and simmer for a few minutes until tender. Serve right away, with the meatballs and sauce.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Traditionally, this type of recipe calls for coconut milk as the main component of the sauce. I find that a bit too heavy, also very high on the saturated fat content. So I tone it down with pureed tomatoes. You can just use a full can of coconut milk, if you prefer.

The meatballs have a nice texture, and incorporate the flavor of the sauce well. As to the red curry paste, I have a favorite brand now, after seeing it recommended by cookbook authors and food bloggers: Mae Ploy. It is much better than any brand I’ve used in the past. You can find it online if not available in stores where you live (click here). Leftovers (meatballs only, bok-choy was gone) were delicious on day #2 and day #3. And yes, they were mine, all mine…

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LOW-CARB SUPER FAST CHICKEN PARMIGIANA

Air-fryer to the rescue again… I will give you pretty loose instructions, because how you make it will depend on your carb goals. If you want to do close to zero carbs, omit the bread crumbs. The texture will suffer a bit, but it will still work. If you want to do moderate carbs, use the mixture I did. I am quite surprised by how much I liked the texture of the meat, and the fact that frying the chicken breast on the stove top before baking was not needed at all. A leap of faith was needed for me to try it the first time. I’ve made it three times ever since.

LOW-CARB AIR-FRYED CHICKEN PARMIGIANA
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, lightly seasoned with salt
2 eggs, whisked with a teaspoon of water, salt and Herbes de Provence to taste
50:50 mixture of bread crumbs and almond flour
(lower carb alternative 50:50 mixture of almond flour + finely grated Parmigiano cheese)
tomato sauce
mozzarella cheese

Dip the chicken breasts in the seasoned whisked egg mixture, coat both sides with your choice of “breading.” Spray the basket of the air-fryer with a little olive oil. Carefully place the pieces of meat side by side in the basket. Turn the air-fryer to 390F and cook for 10 minutes. If you are using very large breasts, cook for 12 minutes, but the recipe works best with smallish pieces of meat.

Gently flip the meat over, add tomato sauce and cheese. Air-fry for 6 additional minutes. Remove the meat and let it rest for a few minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: There are three little issues that might annoy you with this method. You know I never lie…

First: if you go real low in carbs, the coating is on the soft side. It will be very hard to flip the chicken piece without losing part of it to the basket. Even with the bread crumbs a little bit is lost. I am not sure if the flipping of the piece is necessary, and intend to try without doing it next time.

Second: it makes a bit of a mess in the basket once the cheese melts. I am a neat-freak and that means I spend quite a bit of time cleaning it up and inspecting every little corner. It still does not prevent me from making it, but keep that in mind and don’t get mad at me…

Third: if you have a smallish air-fryer like I do, you can only do two pieces of chicken at a time. It turns out that when I make this, I do the regular kind (stove-top, fried then baked) for the husband, and this lower-carb version for me. But if you are feeding a family of four, this is not a good option.

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LEMONY CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ARTICHOKES AND OLIVES

This was the first meal I cooked the day after we arrived from a wonderful trip to Lake Tahoe. Got together with stepson and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, went skiing, and relaxed. Celebrated both our wedding anniversary and my Birthday: one more revolution around the sun successfully completed by yours truly. We landed late and arrived home around 1am. Next day brought that daze that often happens after trips. So I wanted something simple to put together, but with a hint of celebration, because nothing beats having a home to come back to. When so many in our world are denied such basic right, forced to leave it all behind or face certain death.

LEMONY CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS AND OLIVES
(adapted from many sources)

8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
juice and zest of one lemon
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp Rose Harissa (I used this one)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vermouth
frozen artichoke hearts, amount to taste
pitted green olives, amount to taste
1 tablespoon capers

Make a marinade with the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, vermouth and spices. Whisk well or add to a small processor to emulsify. Add to the chicken pieces and leave it in the fridge for a few hours, if you have the time.

Heat oven to 350F. Place the chicken pieces, skin-side down on a large baking pan. Pour the marinade over. Add the artichoke hearts, olives and capers all around. Season lightly the meat with salt. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes.

Remove the foil, turn the pieces over, to have the skin-side up. Bake for 20 more minutes at the same temperature, then increase to 420F and bake until the skin is golden brown.

Serve with your favorite side dish.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: My main advice is to load it with frozen artichoke hearts, keep in mind there is no need to thaw them. They will shrink considerably, so don’t be afraid to pack the baking dish to the limit. The liquid that forms during baking is absolutely delicious. If you don’t have vermouth, use any dry white wine, or if you prefer, some chicken stock, but the acidity of the wine helps to brighten up the flavors. If you don’t have rose harissa powder, use any hot condiment you like (smoked paprika, a little Sriracha or Gochujang).

We enjoyed it with green beans and almonds, but some white rice or couscous would go well too. Apparently it is considered rude to keep going back to the dish and mindlessly pick all the artichoke hearts until there is none left. I don’t know who makes these rules, but clearly “I” was not consulted.

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CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

I use the pressure cooker a lot, pretty much the whole year. I wanted to make chicken soup under pressure (the soup, not the cook), so I started by checking a few cookbooks and websites. I shall name no names, but a very very reputable source gave me a recipe that disappointed on many levels. I used it as a very loose starting point. My version got two thumbs up from me and the man I’ve been happily married with for 21 years, 11 months and 3.5 weeks. Yes, almost anniversary time for us!

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, halved
6 medium carrots, 3 halved crosswise and 3 peeled and cut into half-moons
4 stalks celery, 2 halved crosswise and 2 cut into half-moons
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 large chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces, with the skin removed, wings left with skin on
2 quarts water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 piece ginger (about 1 inch)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste, optional
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving
noodles of your choice, amount to taste

Heat the oil in your pressure cooker, add the shallots, and the large pieces of carrots and celery, season lightly with salt and pepper. Sautee until fragrant.

Add the chicken pieces, but do not include the breast. Add water, peppercorns, soy sauce and ginger. Make sure the water covers all the pieces of meat. Close the pressure cooker, and cook under pressure for 30 minutes. Release the pressure by running cold water over the lid, or if using the Instant Pot, use the rapid release method.

Strain the liquid passing it through a fine sieve. Discard all solids. You should have at least 8 cups of stock, if you have less, add water to complete the volume. Place the liquid back in the pressure cooker, or use another large stockpot. Add the breasts to the stock, then the pieces of carrots and celery reserved earlier. Simmer very gently until the breast is cooked through – it might take 20 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts.

Cook the noodles al dente and rinse them in cold water. Reserve. You’ll need about 2 cups cooked noodles for the full amount of soup.

When the breast meat is cooked, remove to a plate and shred the meat with a fork. Add it back to the stock, and add the cooked noodles. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and squirt a little lemon juice right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I made this soup three times during this winter. First time I was worried that the noodles would get too mushy if left in the broth for a day or two, so I was trying to add them to just the amount of soup we would consume in that meal. But, there’s really no need to do that. It turns out they hold pretty well in the fridge. I just try to cook them JUST to the al dente stage.

The pressure cooker does a beautiful job intensifying flavors, so the soup is very satisfying and has a bright flavor due to the ginger and lemon. I hope you give it a try, either with a pressure cooker or the Instant Pot.

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A SAVORY PHYLLO PIE

I was going to call it “Meat and Potato Phyllo Pie”. Side note: the expression “meat and potato guy” always makes me smile, as it took me a while to fully understand its meaning. When you are a foreigner, it’s not feasible to stop people all the time to ask for clarifications on every expression you don’t quite “get”. So you go with the flow. Of course now I know that it refers to someone who is not very adventurous in the gastronomic department. But this version adds a few tidbits that a true meat and potato being might object to, like tahini, eggplant, maybe even phyllo could be a no-no… Therefore, let’s go with Savory Phyllo Pie.

SAVORY PHYLLO PIE
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

8 inch-springform pan (or pan with removable bottom)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
1 rib celery, diced
1 pound ground turkey (dark meat if possible)
3/4 pound ground bison (or substitute extra turkey meat)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes (fire roasted if you like)

for the vegetable layer:
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium eggplant
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil spray or a few tablespoons

for yogurt sauce:
3/4 cup full-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt to taste

to assemble pie:
8 sheets of phyllo dough
olive oil spray
sesame seeds (optional)

Prepare the meat layer. Heat the olive oil, sauté the celery and shallots with a little salt. When fragrant, add all dried spices, let them heat for a minute, then add the two kinds of meat, salt, and cook until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, close the pan and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Reserve, allowing it to cool to room temperature or place it in the fridge.

Prepare the vegetable layer. Peel the eggplant, cut in 1/4 inch rounds, do the same for the sweet potatoes. Brush or spray the surface with oil and bake in a single layer at 425F until it starts to get golden. The eggplant will work best if you use a grill, but it was too cold for that when I made it. Reserve the veggies.

Prepare the yogurt-tahini sauce and reserve. Assemble the pie: Spray the bottom and sides of the springform pan with olive oil. Grab one sheet of phyllo at a time, spray with olive oil and place inside the pan with the ends going over the sides and hanging. Use 5 more sheets overlapping them in a circle. Place the sweet potato slices at the bottom, then the eggplant. Cover with the meat, pressing it down and leveling the surface well. Drizzle the tahini sauce and spread it well on the surface. Grab two more sheets of phyllo, fold in half, spray with oil and cover the top of the pie. Now bring all the phyllo that is hanging outside and crump the edges to neatly close the pie. Spray additional olive oil over the top, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 40 minutes at 400F. Let the pie sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I actually made phyllo pie two weeks in a row, first time following a recipe from Falastin. It was good, but a bit too heavy and the meat got slightly dry. So I made this version with similar Middle Eastern tones. We both loved it! It is a bit involved, but totally worth it. I usually make all the components and save them in the fridge. Then, it’s all a matter of heating the oven, assembling the pie and dinner is ready in one hour. You do need to wait for 15 minutes or it will be messy when you cut it.

I use the mixture of turkey and bison very often. It is great for chilis, and even burgers. Both are very lean types of meat, the bison gives a more complex flavor. We have excellent bison meat in Kansas, but if you cannot find it, just use turkey, or ground beef, or even lamb, although the end result with be considerably heavier.

All that was needed to call it dinner? A simple salad. We ate like royalty… I hope you’ll give this recipe a try, another good option for company, as you can do a lot in advance. Plus, it looks pretty awesome when you remove it from the springform pan.

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