a winter’s night turkey burgers

Theres nothing like a classic all beef burger to make you feel indulged and satisfied. I’m not talking about some slapped together fast food number (blech, never!) but a nice juicy hand-formed burger cooked medium, with just the right meat to bun ratio and topped off with a delicious bit of cheese. And I love the way burgers taste when they’re cooked outside on the grill, it’s a flavor I’ve never been able to duplicate in my kitchen. (Grilled blue cheese burgers with caramelized onions and Dijon mustard happens to be one of my all time favorite indulgences!) All that being said, in our house good ‘ol classic grilled hamburgers are strictly warm weather fare. There’s no way I’m standing at the grill on a cold dark winter’s night just for a couple of burgers (not even blue cheese ones) and that goes double this Winter. Imagine if for some crazy reason I did decide to brave the cold darkness in an attempt to grill up a few burgers— I would still need to climb over and trudge through three feet of frozen snow just to get to the grill! Nope. Sorry. Not happening… However, since burgers are such a great hectic weeknight meal I realized I had to find a solution to my weather-bound limitations. I happen to love Salmon burgers and would happily eat them on a regular basis, but my family— not so much. I like veggie burgers as well but try as I may to get my recipe perfect, they always seem to wind up a big crumbly mess. And frankly, I’m not so sure my family would be knocked out by the “perfect” veggie burger either. They do however happen to be fans of turkey burgers, which is quite fortunate since I just happen to have a killer turkey burger recipe that actually works better in a skillet than on the grill.

Let me begin by saying that a turkey burger will never satisfy the way a beef burger does. I know this. I acknowledge this. I agree with this. But… What turkey may lack in decadence it totally makes up for in versatility. Ground turkey is a bit like tofu in that it really takes on whatever flavors you add to it beautifully. In fact ground turkey is my go-to protein for many of the dishes I make; Turkey Shepherds PieTurkey & Bean ChiliTurkey Meatloaf with Salsa and Old School Turkey Sloppy Joe’s just to name a few. So the idea of a souped-up turkey burger seemed like a no-brainer to me, particularly one that incorporated all the cool weather flavors I love most; Tart apple, aged cheddar cheese, fresh garlic and sage with just a hint of maple syrup. Sounds kinda crazy, right? It is, in the most wonderful and yummy of ways. And while it won’t ever replace the taste of a freshly grilled beef burger, it has quickly become a Greco family favorite.

Apple, Sage & Maple Turkey Burgers
These burgers totally taste like cool weather to me. A bit of tart apple, aged cheddar and fresh sage with a hint of maple syrup. Yup, frosty winter nights all the way…

replacement

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. fresh sage leaves, minced (about 3 large leaves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. real maple syrup
1/2 a medium green apple, finely grated
1 lb. ground turkey
4 brioche rolls
4 slices cheddar cheese, for garnish
sliced tomatoes and fresh spinach, for garnish
Maple-Dijon sauce (see recipe below)

  1. In a small bowl mash together the garlic, sage, salt and pepper to form a paste. Add the apple cider, maple syrup and grated apple and mix well.
  2. Knead the garlic mixture into the ground turkey and form into 4 patties (they will be very soft and kinda wet, not to worry). Allow to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to give the flavors a chance to meld.
  3. Heat a non-stick griddle or skillet over medium heat, lightly oil and add the burgers. Carefully transfer the burgers to the griddle and cook until firm, cooked through and lightly browned, about 6 minutes per side. Serve on rolls with cheddar cheese, a slice of tomato, fresh spinach leaves and a schemer of maple-dijon sauce.

Maple-Dijon Mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. real maple syrup

  1. While burgers are resting mix together the yogurt, mustard and maple syrup and chill until ready to use.
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take comfort with a shepherd

I love leftovers, perhaps I’ve mentioned that before. Another delicious meal with half the effort… yes please. In fact sometimes I intentionally cook more than I know we’ll eat in a single meal just to insure there will be something yummy leftover. Mashed potatoes are the perfect example. Why mashed potatoes of all things you may ask… Well for shepherd’s pie of course!

I happen to be a fan of casseroles (well maybe not tuna noodle, but certainly turkey tetrazzini) primarily because of the minimal effort they require to turn simple ingredients into a “May I have seconds please?” dinner. My family seems to agree since one of their all time favorite meals has to be shepherds pie. They can demolish one of these babies in the blink of an eye and even when I double the recipe, the leftovers that remain are often little more than a single serving. But really who could blame them, it is after all one of the most comforting of one pot meals going— snowed in, bummed out or tired beyond belief… shepherd’s pie to the rescue!

Shepherd’s pie could be considered the marinara sauce of casseroles, everyone has their own way of making it and everyone thinks their recipe is the best. My version calls for ground turkey instead of beef or lamb and to make it the perfect busy week night dinner I use frozen vegetables rather than fresh. As a rule I don’t like frozen vegetables primarily because they tend to turn out soggy, however in this case I think frozen veggies work beautifully; perfectly diced, cooked in a flash and as easy as it gets. Throw in some lovely leeks and diced onion, a bit of fresh thyme and a few spices, smother everything in gravy and top it with a lovely crust of mashed potatoes and holy cow deliciousness. So I guess I can’t blame by family for their voracious appetites… I mean seriously, how could I expect anything less?!?

Turkey Shepherds Pie
Depending on my mood I either make one big casserole, two small or several individual ones. The choice is yours but regardless of the size they’re delicious!

shepherds pie4

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium leek, halved and sliced thin
1/2 small onion, diced small
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups frozen corn
1 cup frozen peal onions
3-4 cups leftover mashed potatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the leeks and onions and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook, breaking up any large chunks, about 6-8 minutes or until just cooked through.
  2. Stir in the flour, garlic, poultry seasoning, thyme, salt and pepper and cook 2 more minutes. Stir in the chicken broth and all the frozen veggies and stir to mix thoroughly. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. Grease a deep ceramic baking dish and add to it the turkey mixture. Top with the mashed potatoes and bake until browned on top and the mixture is bubbling, about 15-20 minutes. If the potatoes have not browned enough turn on the broiler for a few minutes to crisp them up. (Alternately to really make this a one pot meal you can sauté everything in a ovenproof skillet, top it with the mashed potatoes and slide the whole thing into the oven to bake.)
  4. Let the casserole sit for 10 minutes before serving.

st. anthony’s + the spani-queen

As a blogger I work very hard at self-promotion. This doesn’t come entirely naturally to me but, if I want an actual audience to read my weekly type written blood, sweat and tears then I have no choice but to promote myself at every opportunity. However sometimes the audience actually finds me all on their own. And once they find me and read what I’ve been rambling on about they actually contact me to say “We like your sassy style and pithy prose, please join our posse!” And so I do…

I was recently invited to join in the preparations for St. Anthony Orthodox Church’s 37th Annual International Festival. Every November St. Anthony’s in Bergenfield, N.J. hosts a three-day event featuring a variety of homemade Greek, Middle Eastern, Slavic and Eastern European foods. In the weeks leading up to the festival the parish gathers together to make the vast array of foods that will feed hungry festival-goers. I’m never one to turn down a good culinary opportunity, so when invited to join the food prep fun I wholeheartedly agreed. The night I went to help they were making spanakopita, mountains and mountains of spanakopita.

I’ll be honest with you, prior to joining the crew at St. Anthony’s my experience with spanakopita was strictly limited to eating, but Master Spani Chef Jim Bogris wasted no time introducing me to the secrets of the perfect spanakopita. Jim’s recipe is based on his mother Angela’s, who as it happens was the festivals “Spani-Queen” for twenty plus years prior handing the reigns over to her son. She still lends a hand in the assembly but leaves the heavy lifting and stirring of an enormous caldron of spinach mixture to the younger folks. (Smart lady!) According to Jim what sets his recipe apart from others is the amount of fresh herbs he uses and the three cheese; Pecorino Romano, ricotta and feta. Oh and he has a motto that goes something like this “There is no such thing as too much butter. If you think you’ve used enough, use a little more.”

I think I need that printed on a shirt…

Yai-Yai’s Spanakopita
This recipe has been handed down through generations of the Bogris family. I wouldn’t think of tweaking it and honestly, it doesn’t need a thing changed anyway.*

group2

1 lb. #7 phyllo dough sheets
3/4 to 1 lb. clarified butter (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 bunch dill, minced
1 bunch parsley, minced
1 lb. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 lb grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 lb. ricotta cheese (whole milk)
6 eggs, beaten
3 lbs. frozen chopped spinach (thawed, drained and squeezed dry)

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In large pot heat olive oil, add scallions, onions, dill, parsley, and sauté until soft.
  2. Add spinach to pot and sauté another 10-15 minutes (mixing continuously so it doesn’t stick).
  3. In a large bowl mix crumbled feta, Romano cheese, ricotta cheese and eggs. Add to pot and mix thoroughly.
  4. Butter the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan and cover with a sheet of phyllo. Continue layering sheets of phyllo and buttering each layer with pastry brush, placing on the bottom a total of 8 buttered layers of phyllo dough.
  5. Top the phyllo layers with the spinach mixture.
  6. Cover with 8 more layers of buttered phyllo dough (again, buttering each individually while tucking in the sides.
  7. Score the top two layers of phyllo in triangles or squares, being careful not to cut into the mixture.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.

*courtesy of st. anthony’s church

*According to Jim the spanakopita can be made ahead, wrapped in foil then plastic wrap and frozen for several months. Allow it to defrost in the refrigerator overnight and bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes at 350°F.

kicking’ it sloppy + old school

If I say the word “Manwich” and you’re roughly the same age as I am you’ll probably think one of two things; “Oh man, I used to love Sloppy Joe’s as a kid!” or “Ugh, that reminds me of bad school lunches.” I happen to have fond Sloppy Joe memories, although I’m fairly certain my mother never actually bought a can of Hunt’s Manwich. I’m sure it was just another thing on my long list of pre-made, preservative laden, artificial everything foods that 7-year-old me longed for, but that my dearest mother decided to make from scratch instead.

[Fast forward thirty odd years] “Mom, what’s a sloppy Joe?” “Sloppy Joe’s are these great messy sandwiches. They’re filled with ground beef in a tangy tomato sauce and served on squishy rolls. It was one of my favorite dinners as a kid.” “Really?!? Do you think you could make them one day?” “You got it.

A few days later he seems to have forgotten about our conversation, but my husband who overheard it clearly hadn’t. “Sloppy Joe’s tonight?” reads the mid-morning text.

Initially I hadn’t planned on following a recipe, I thought I’d just wing it, tasting as I went until I got it right. But after a quick google search I actually decided to tweak up a Williams-Sonoma recipe. (Yes I know, Williams-Sonoma and Sloppy Joe in the same sentence is an odd juxtaposition, just go with it.) The first thing I did was change the ground beef to turkey, then I bumped up the spices, thickened the sauce a bit and… like greased lightnin’ it was suddenly 1978 again.

Old School Sloppy Joe’s
We totally kicked it old school the night I made these. I served them along with tater tots and frozen mixed vegetables. 7-year-old me would have approved…

sloppy3

1 1/2 cups diced onion
3/4 cup finely diced celery
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/3 cup diced green pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
7-8 hamburger rolls

  1. Add the oil to a large frying pan and heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and green pepper and sauté until the onion is translucent and the pepper is beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring frequently and breaking up the any large clumps of meat, until it’s no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar and spices. Add the tomato mixture to the nearly cooked meat, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Divide the meat mixture evenly between the hamburgers rolls, serve with some old school tater tots and enjoy a nostalgia filled evening.

*adapted from williams-sonoma

salmon with a bow-tie

This week not only marks the start of new school year but also a new soccer season. My husband coaches my sons team and has for the past few years, but this year he’s also going to be assisting on my daughter’s “Little Cleats” team. (Yeah I know, pray for him.) My boy has also recently decided to participate in a skateboard class through our rec department and the girl wants to take an Intro to Sports clinic. So between school activities, soccer practice and games, sports clinics and oh yeah homework— the next couple of months will be busy ones to say the least.

If you’re schedule sounds like mine then I’m sure pasta is part of your typical weekly menu. I like pasta just as much as the next girl but while the kids never tire of having it with simple red sauce and cheese, I grow weary of that combo pretty quickly. I do occasionally switch things up with pesto or garlic, butter and cheese, as a poor man’s carbonara or a quick mac n’ cheese. But not being one to ever rest on my “good enough” laurels, I’m always on the lookout for new recipe inspiration.

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about yogurt, specifically cooking with it. I like yogurt and we consume a pretty good amount of it in our house. The kids eat it for breakfast, I add it to my smoothies, swap it out for sour cream on tacos, add it to my blueberry muffins and I’ve even made yogurt from scratch (which was far easier and more rewarding than you would think!) But what about using it as a sauce for pasta? As I considered the idea a dish slowly formed in my mind. I’ve been on a sardine kick lately and while the combination of yogurt and sardines didn’t sound particularly appealing, salmon and yogurt did. And what goes perfectly with salmon but capers, lemon and fresh chives.

Voilà! An easy and fast pasta dinner for everyone and something more exotic than red sauce for me.

Farfalle with Salmon & Yogurt Sauce
I served this pasta dish warm, but I imagine it would totally work as a chilled salad as well.

salmon pasta6

3/4 lb. farfalle pasta
1 6 oz. can boneless/skinless wild salmon
3/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp. Spanish capers
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh chives, snipped small
lemon zest, for garnish

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. While it cooks break up the salmon and place it in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and gently mix.
  2. When the pasta is al dente, drain it extremely well and add it to the bowl. Gently fold the pasta into the yogurt sauce. Adjust the seasonings, garnish with lemon zest and more chives and serve.

flexing my mussels

Around this time every summer my children spend a week with my parents in Connecticut, and while I miss them (stop snickering I do miss them) I also enjoy having a week free to do, see and cook all the things I don’t ordinarily get to. You would expect the overwhelming quiet, greatly reduced laundry and lack of sibling bickering to be what makes they’re absence feel so profound, but in fact it’s the little things. The way I can walk from the front door to the kitchen without stepping on or tripping over anyone’s shoes, the way a gallon of milk can actually last for more than two days and the way I can go a week without uttering any of the following phrases: “stop yelling” “would you like me to treat you like that” “leave the dog alone” “turn down the tv” “no you can’t play video games” and last but not least “go to bed…go to bed…go to bed…GO TO BED!…” Yeah, I miss them. Terribly.

I consider my kids to be fairly adventurous eaters (for an 8 and 4 yr old) and easy to please when it come to meals. Yes my daughter would eat pasta for every meal if she could and my son could live on turkey and cheese sandwiches; but they also happily eat things like sushi, smoked ribs, grilled asparagus, shrimp stir-fry, sautéed grouper and garlicky hummus without complaint. What they won’t eat is anything too spicy, which is of course exactly how I like things. So while they’re away enjoying New England I get the opportunity to throw caution to the wind and cook the spicy dishes that make me most happy.

Given the freedom to make whatever floats my boat is actually a bit more daunting than you would think. To quote the charming Miss Veruca Salt “I want the works, I want the whole works…” There are so many recipes I tuck into my “just for me” file that when the time comes to actually pull one out, its tough to narrow it down. I really want to try to replicate the spicy ceviche I had at dinner the other night, there’s a chicken vindaloo recipe that looks easy whose ingredients I happen to already have on hand and a spicy West African peanut soup that sounds incredibly good. But in the end the dish I ultimately decided to kick my week of freedom off with was a is a dish of spicy steamed mussels.

I have a weakness for mussels, they happen to be one of my all-time favorite foods. I eat them whenever the opportunity arrises and can’t eat them without thinking fondly of the night my husband and I spent in Honfleur, France so many years ago. We sat for hours at a little table alongside the Vieux Bassin in the center of town, sipping rosé and enjoying the sights, the sounds and a steaming pot of mussels in a curry cream sauce. It was sheer perfection. Honestly, if you know my husband or myself then you have no doubt heard our story of Honfleur. Perfection! However, as big as that build up was and as much as I love that classic French preparation of mussels, I love the combination of coconut, chilies and lemon grass even more. So the decision was made and Spicy Coconut Mussels with Lemon Grass was the winner.

It was delicious and something the kids totally wouldn’t have appreciated, which made it all the tastier. They’ll be home tomorrow and I’ll have to start cooking to please their palates again, but I’ll always have the memories of these spicy mussels…

Spicy Coconut & Lemon Grass Mussels
These are perfect as an appetizer or as a main dish along with a tossed salad.

mussels2

4 tbsp. coconut oil
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 stalks fresh lemon grass, outer layers removed, cut into 3 pieces and smashed with the side of a knife
1 tsp. garam masala
2-3 small hot chiles (I used a fresh cayenne), finely chopped
3 cups unsweetened light coconut milk
4 lbs. fresh PEI mussels*, scrubbed
zest of a lemon
juice of a lemon
2 tsp. Asian fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
sliced and toasted crusty bread

  1. Heat the coconut oil in the bottom of a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, lemon grass, garam masala and chiles and cook over medium heat until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and mussels. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook until the mussels have opened, 5 to 7 minutes (discard any mussels that remain closed).
  2. Remove from heat and using a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a large bowl, leaving the liquid in the pot. Fish out the lemon grass and stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, fish sauce and cilantro. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce and/or lemon juice if desired.
  3. Slice and toast several pieces of crusty bread. Place the mussels in four wide bowls, ladle the broth over them and serve with the sliced bread.

*adapted from NY Times

*You should always try to use any fresh shellfish the same day you buy it. However if you have to keep it for a day or two before cooking here’s what to do to keep it fresh: “Remove the mussels from the mesh bag and put them in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel to keep them moist. (Never store them in an airtight container, they’re still alive and will suffocate.) To check for freshness, tap a slightly opened mussel on the counter. If it doesn’t close shut, toss it. Store them in the coldest part of your refrigerator. The mussels will release a small amount of liquid every day, make sure to drain this often.” —@NoshOnIt

the penicillium roqueforti blues…

I am not a subtle girl. I’m invariably drawn to strong flavors, strong opinions and strong personalities. So it probably comes as no surprise that I’ll take a sharp, pungent and complex blue cheese over a mild cheddar any day. Blue cheeses are those that have been exposed or “needled” with a kind of mold, usually Penicillium roqueforti, and allowed to age and develop gorgeous blue-green veins. Blue cheese may seem too tangy for some, but in reality it’s the perfect accent to nearly any dish it’s added to. Blue cheese with a simple drizzle of honey… Perfect. Blue cheese on a spinach salad… Yum. Blue cheese in a turkey and fig panini… Amazing. Blue cheese with any type of beef…. Fantastic. Blue cheese with caramelized onions, sweet red peppers and toasted walnuts… sensational and as it happens this weeks recipe!

Making pizza from scratch is a pretty common occurrence at our house, but it generally only takes place in the winter months. I would prefer not to crank up the oven during the summer heat and while I’ve thought about trying to make grilled pizza, until recently I never actually attempted it. I don’t know why, maybe I thought that if things went awry I would have a giant hard to clean mess on my hands. Or maybe I was suspect that it would actually turn out as good as traditional oven baked. Whatever my reasons were, they couldn’t have been more off base. Grilled pizza is easier than oven baked and actually believe it or not, takes less time. As long as the grill is crazy hot the dough will immediately form a crust and puff up beautifully. Then you layer on some lovely toppings, pop it back on the grill and presto— pizza is served!

We’ve tried a lot of topping combos since first discovering this new style of pizza making. I’m still experimenting but I’d have to say the front-runners appear to be a simple sausage and tomato for the kids and a caramelized onion, red pepper, blue cheese and walnut for the adults. I’m thinking next week we’ll try shrimp and pesto with crumbled bacon. I’ll let you know how it turns out…

Caramelized Onion, Red Pepper & Blue Cheese Grilled Pizza
Not only is this pizza delicious but making it on the grill is much easier than making it in the oven. Give it a shot, become a convert!

blue cheese pizza slice++**

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 huge sweet onions, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 large red bell pepper, cut into long thin strips
1 lb. pizza dough (homemade or store bought), at room temperature
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
4 oz. buttermilk blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup walnut pieces

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sugar and cook until golden, about 45 minutes, stirring frequently. (Caramelizing onions is a slow process that can’t be rushed. This recipe calls for more oil than ordinarily used, but you need it to keep the pizza crust moist.)
  2. Transfer the onions to a bowl and set aside. Place the bell pepper in the same pan, sprinkle with salt and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the walnuts to the pan and quickly toast, set aside.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, gently stretch the dough into an 18-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a rimless cookie sheet or a pizza peel dusted with flour and let sit for 10 minutes. Preheat your grill to 400°F.
  4. Dip paper towels in olive oil and carefully wipe them on the grates of the grill to grease them. Slide the circle of dough onto the hot grill; close the lid and let cook until it puffs up and brown grill marks form on the bottom, about 2 to 4 minutes. (As you transfer your circle of dough to the grill it may become more of an amoeba shape than a circle. Don’t worry, it will still taste delicious.)
  5. Transfer the crust back to your pan and with the grilled side facing up, begin layering on your toppings. Start by spreading on the onions as evenly as possible, then add the mozzarella, red peppers, blue cheese and finally top with the walnuts.
  6. Return the pizza to the grill and cook (with the lid closed) another 2 to 4 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the crust is crisp. Transfer to a cutting board, slice into wedges and serve.

*adapted from weber

lovin’ the herb

I love to grow fresh herbs. I love the smell of fresh herbs. I love to cook with fresh herbs. There’s nothing that says summertime to me more than overflowing pots of lush herbs on my back steps; it makes me happy just to look at them. Sometimes I run my hand along the rosemary or sage stems just to let them give off their lovely aroma. And who doesn’t love the way fresh basil smells. I’ve been thinking I just may start rubbing the leaves behind my ears as my summer scent. Anyway with all these wonderful herbs around I try to use them at every opportunity and since the more you clip herbs the more abundant they become, it’s really a win-win situation.

Finding uses for fresh basil is really a no brainer— as soon as Jersey tomatoes start hitting the farmers market I make a simple caprese salad or a Sweet Summer Sauce with my homegrown cherry tomatoes. Abundant amounts of oregano go into my Smokey Baked Beans, I use fresh rosemary on roasted potatoes and to marinade pork, cilantro has a starring role in my Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad and what would Herbed Drop Biscuits be without fresh thyme. However as tasty as these few dishes are, they don’t really put a significant dent in my herb supply. I’m always looking for new ways to work fresh herbs into my cooking and my latest creations are a brush on grill sauce for chicken and a creamy buttermilk salad dressing.

The grill sauce is a super simple way to give some fresh summery flavor to chicken or vegetables without much advance prep. Sure it makes a mess of the grill, but the you’ll enjoy dinner so much it will totally be worth a few extra minutes with the grill brush. And the salad dressing is something like a healthy hybrid of caesar and ranch, it turns nothing fancy greens into a salad worth serving guests.

Here’s wishing you a Summer filled with lovely sights, sounds and smells.

Buttermilk & Fresh Herb Salad Dressing
Say so long to that bottle of store bought dressing and hello to yum! I usually sprinkle a bit more shredded parmesan on top of the salad and sometimes a few slivered almonds.

herb salad5

2 tbsp. fresh basil
2 tbsp. fresh dill
2 tbsp. fresh parsley
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon
3 tbsp. sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. lemon juice
4 tbsp. light mayo
3 tbsp. plain low-fat yogurt
2 tbsp. light sour cream
1 cup reduced fat buttermilk
2 tbsp. shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. black pepper

  1. Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the herbs are finely minced and the ingredients are fully blended.
  2. Pour into a glass jar and chill overnight, allowing flavors to blend, before drizzling over salad greens and serving.

Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herb Sauce
You can brush this on the chicken or vegetables as you grill them. It will make a mess of the grill, but it’s totally worth it!

herb grilled chicken

6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 package of chicken, thighs or breasts

  1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Allow to run until herbs are minced and a thick sauce has formed.
  2. Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the chicken with the sauce and begin to grill. Flip and continue to baste with the remaining sauce until chicken is completely cooked.
*adapted from serious eats