Mediterranean Turkey Burgers with Dill Yogurt Sauce

Now that summer’s upon us in full force here in Central Texas, I am one happy blogger. One of my favorite things in life is relaxing in or near a turquoise body of water, and I can’t help but daydream about Greek Islands. In 2004, I had the great fortune to be able to spend a week in Corfu, and it was the closest place to heaven I have yet been.

So, for tonight’s dinner, I decided to combine the very American organic ground turkey in my fridge with some of my favorite Mediterranean flavors. I’ve also been on a yogurt and (especially) sour cream kick lately, so this really hit the spot. It’s a pretty straightforward concoction, but the result is, both refreshing and satisfyingly savory, if not as gorgeous as the Ionian islands.

For the sauce
1 cup cup Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp sour cream (optional)
juice half a lemon
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, minced (or dash or garlic powder)
1 flat tsp dried dill

In a bowl with an airtight lid, stir all ingredients thoroughly and refrigerate for at least two hours. This will allow the dill time to soften, and for the flavors to blend. This sauce can be used on a pita or sandwich, as a salad dressing, or as a dip for raw vegetables. It also makes an easy and delicious base for potato salad (warm or cold).

For this recipe, a side of raw vegetables for dipping makes a great addition!

This sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator, as well.

For the burgers
1 lb ground turkey*
2 Tbsp pesto of your choice
~ 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely shredded and diced
1 tsp ground paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup fine Italian breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp olive oil (if cooking on the stovetop)
2 whole wheat pitas
1 cup feta cheese
lettuce or greens of your choice
fresh Kalamata olives as garnish (optional)

1. In a large bowl, mix the turkey, pesto, onion, herbs, salt and pepper, and breadcrumbs. Stir thoroughly with clean hands until all ingredients are evenly mixed.

2. Form mixture into four balls of equal size and mash out flat on a cutting board or other clean surface, to form patties, each approximately 3/4″ or so thick.

3. These may be cooked in a skillet with a little olive oil (about 5 minutes each side) or, as I frequently do, on the grill. As is usual on a weeknight, I used my George Foreman Grill for these (about 5 or 6 minutes). If cooking outside, factor in time to get your grill prepared before tossing them on.

4. While burgers are cooking, prepare pitas by cutting them in half and warming them slightly in the oven, microwave, or high on the grill. Chop any vegetables, such as carrots and cucumber, that you will be serving alongside your burgers.

5. Assemble burgers by sliding the patties into the pita halves and finishing with a dollop of Dill Yogurt Sauce, feta, and some lettuce. Use any extra sauce for dipping side vegetables. Add olives, if using, and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

* Of course, you could also substitute lamb.

Zakynthos, by Craig Grocott, on Flickr


Feta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Creamy Pesto Sauce

This is one of my personal favorites on the blog.  I am a big fan of all these flavors (and even though I hate tomatoes, I love them sun dried!).

A great recipe for a casual dinner party, these stuffed chicken breasts look a lot fancier than they really are; they’re not intimidating to cook at all, and the result is so flavorful and pretty, they’re definitely worth the little bit of extra effort.

And the sauce is to die for.  Buon appetito!

For the chicken
4 chicken breasts
1 cup feta
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
~1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp flour
~2 Tbsp pesto
dash of salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash chicken breasts and carefully make a slit in the side of each one, lengthwise. Stuff with feta, herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes, then sprinkle each side with salt and pepper. Grill until well done.*

2. While chicken is grilling, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute for a few minutes until it is translucent. Add butter and garlic and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for just a few minutes, until garlic begins to brown and becomes fragrant. Add chicken broth.

3. In a separate bowl, stir flour into milk until it is dissolved. Stir into skillet, along with a little salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes, stirring constantly as sauce thickens. Add pesto and stir until well mixed.

4. By now your chicken should be done; plate the chicken, spoon sauce over it, and enjoy immediately. Serve with salad, vegetables, and brown rice, which tastes rich and delicious with a little of the creamy sauce.

Serves 4.

* I use a George Foreman Grill, which only takes ten minutes; alternatively, you could prepare the sauce and then bake the chicken in it; or pan-fry the chicken and use the grease as a base for the sauce in lieu of chicken broth.

Pan-Seared Bison Steak with Mushroom Wine Sauce

Enjoy this low-carb, “primal” or “paleo” dinner option that is quick and easy! This whole recipe should have you sitting down with a juicy bison steak within 20 minutes. A great way to live a life of luxury on weeknights!

For the steaks
2 bison steaks, cut of your choice
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp bacon grease

For the sauce
1 cup cremini mushrooms, diced
1/4 white onion, finely diced
1/2 cup ground almond meal (for low-carb) or flour
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp garlic powder
dash salt
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup red wine
8 oz. tomato paste
1 cup water

1. Preheat an ungreased cast iron skillet over medium high heat while preparing sauce ingredients.

2. Melt butter in large saucepan and then stir in mushrooms and onions. Stir for about two or three minutes until mushrooms are cooked.

3. Meanwhile, drop bacon grease in your other skillet so it can begin to melt. Rub all of the steak spices into the steak and place it under a clean dishcloth or paper towel, and set aside.

4. In a one cup measuring cup, place almond meal or flour, paprika, all spice, garlic, and salt. Pour the mixture into your saucepan and then add one cup water. Stir vigorously as mixture thickens. Add red wine and tomato paste, and continue to stir. Once the sauce is mixed to a nice, uniform texture (just a few minutes), reduce heat to simmer. Continue to stir intermittently and reduce heat further if sauce begins to boil. Add more water as necessary to achieve desired thickness.

5. Drop steaks gingerly into cast iron skillet – careful, the bacon grease may pop! Cook for about two to minutes on each side. This should result in a medium-rare to medium steak, depending on the size of your cuts. If you desire your steak more well done, and they are not yet too crispy, you can cook them for longer in the pan over lower heat. Alternatively, you can transfer them to a preheated oven to finish them off.

6. Remove the steaks from the pan and drizzle with mushroom wine sauce. Serve with a side salad (pictured here: mixed leaves with goat chese and chopped pecans).

Serves two. Makes enough sauce for leftovers (good on salad, in wraps, or on other meat dishes – great on pasta!).

Spaghetti Squash Alfredo

I had never heard of spaghetti squash until recently; it seemed to be popping up everywhere: blogs, friends’ tables, my mom’s office. So when I happened upon one the other day, I decided to give it a try. After all, my experiment with raw zucchini pasta has turned into a tasty obsession. This adds another gluten-free, low-carb, vegetable pasta to the arsenal. It’s slightly crunchier than pasta, but provides a wonderful, sold base for a rich sauce without all the calories and carbs.

Of course, I offset any weight-loss benefits of the fact that it’s made with squash by serving it slathered in full fat alfredo sauce. I’m not convinced full fat is a bad thing, but we’ll save that for another post.

1 spaghetti squash, cooked*
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white wine
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and wine and cook for a few moments, stirring frequently, being careful not to burn garlic. Add squash and stir for a few minutes, until heated through.

2. Add cream and stir for a further three minutes, then add parmesan. Continue stirring until cheese melts and the mixture is heated through. Throw in olives and add the salt and black pepper and stir once more.

3. Serve immediately, topped with fresh basil or parsley, or your choice of meat or vegetable (I suggest shrimp, chicken, or – my favorite – sautéed mushrooms).

*I chose to bake it for an hour at 375°. Be sure to stab it with a fork a few times before cooking, as you would with a baked potato.

Chicken and Mushroom Enmoladas

Enchiladas baked in mole are properly called enmoladas, especially if you are in Oaxaca. I decided to use the term for these to mix things up around here!

I’m still a mole amateur, and I sort of make it up as I went along; this mix of flavors turned out great, though. I love the dark richness of the sauce and the tart richness of the feta. Mole also lends itself easily to creative presentation; the deep color looks striking with a spiral of sour cream and some slices of bright, fresh avocado (which I forgot to add for the photo!).

¡Buen provecho!

Follow my recipe for Stella’s Homemade Mole, and set aside.

For the enchiladas
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup shredded chicken, cooked (can be poached, grilled, or baked)
1 cup chopped portobello mushrooms
1 cup finely diced onion
2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup crumbled fresh feta cheese
3 tbsp minced garlic
8 corn tortillas
extra olive oil or butter for pan greasing
2 cups mole sauce
1 avocado, sliced

1. Preheat an oven to 350°. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the onions, cumin, and cilantro and sauté for a couple of minutes, until all are tender. Pour mushroom mix into a medium-sized bowl and stir in the feta and garlic, then set aside.

2. Warm the tortillas by covering them in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and microwaving them on medium for about three minutes.

3. Grease a baking dish or deep pan with butter or olive oil. Have mole sauce in a shallow bowl or pan to the side, and chicken ready in a separate bowl – make a little assembly line. Carefully dip a tortilla in your mole sauce, then place in dish. Fill with about 1/8 of your mushroom mix and 1/8 of your chicken, then roll up, seam side down. Continue until all tortillas have been rolled and filled. They should fit snugly in your dish.

4. Pour the mole sauce over the top. Bake for about 10 minutes or until browning and bubbling. Sprinkle feta and avocado slices on top and serve immediately with rice and beans.

Makes 8 enchiladas. Other optional garnishes include sour cream, crema mexicana, more feta crumbles, salsa, and leftover peanut or sesame seeds.