Hello, hello! First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD! Yup, it’s the anniversary of his awesomeness as a few of my friends call it. If you have his number, call him and sing at him. Otherwise, post birthday wishes here or on my social media pages and I will pass them along.
And now, onto the blog. I have nothing new to talk about, so I thought I would post a couple of recipes Dad recently tried out: smashed cucumbers (also known as Pai Huang Gua) and grilled lamb-stuffed pitas with yogurt sauce. Both of these recipes came from America’s Test Kitchen. Have you tried something new recently? Feel free to share your food exploits here or on my social media pages!
First up, smashed cucumbers (from season 18, episode 17). Serves 4. We forgot the chili oil ATK suggested you use with this dish, but it was good without it. Nice and cool and refreshing, especially on a hot summer day. Dad also added a teaspoon of minced ginger, which was delicious.
- 2 (14-ounce) English cucumbers
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (or 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced to paste
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
1. Trim and discard ends from cucumbers. Cut each cucumber crosswise into three equal lengths. Place pieces in large zipper-lock bag and seal bag. Using small skillet or rolling pin, firmly but gently smash cucumbers until flattened and split lengthwise into 3 to 4 spears each. Tear spears into rough 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces and transfer to colander set in large bowl. Toss cucumbers with salt and let stand for at least 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes.
2. While cucumbers sit, whisk vinegar and garlic together in small bowl; let stand for at least 5 minutes or up to 15 minutes.
3. Whisk soy sauce, oil, and sugar into vinegar mixture until sugar has dissolved. Transfer cucumbers to medium bowl and discard any extracted liquid. Add dressing and sesame seeds to cucumbers and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Next up are the grilled lamb-stuffed pitas with yogurt sauce (from season 18, episode 20). Serves 4-6 (the following instructions are for 4 servings, but just add extra pitas and divide mixture by 6 if you want to serve more/have fewer calories). The pita was crispy, the meat juicy, and the yogurt sauce was nice and cool and creamy. Definitely worth a try. Some grilled onions on top might be a nice addition as well.
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cup minced fresh mint
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 pounds ground lamb (or 85 percent lean ground beef)
- 4 (8-inch) pita breads
1. FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.
2. FOR THE SANDWICHES: Pulse onion and cilantro in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Stir in oil, lemon zest and juice, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon. Add lamb and knead gently with your hands until thoroughly combined.
3. Using kitchen shears, cut around perimeter of each pita and separate into 2 halves. Place 4 thicker halves on counter with interiors facing up. Divide lamb mixture into 4 equal portions and place 1 portion in center of each pita half. Using spatula, gently spread lamb mixture into even layer, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Top each with thinner pita half. Press each sandwich firmly until lamb mixture spreads to ¼ inch from edge of pita. Transfer sandwiches to large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. (Sandwiches may be held for up to 1 hour before grilling.)
4A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter two-thirds filled with charcoal briquettes (4 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
4B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium-high.
5. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place sandwiches on grill, cover, and cook until bottoms are evenly browned and edges are starting to crisp, 7 to 10 minutes, moving sandwiches as needed to ensure even cooking. Flip sandwiches, cover grill, and continue to cook until second sides are evenly browned and edges are crisp, 7 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer sandwiches to cutting board and cut each in half crosswise. Transfer sandwiches to platter and serve, passing sauce separately.