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Monkey Gland

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Don’t worry, I haven’t suddenly gone modern with my cocktails. I take my classics very seriously. As you know, I refuse to post a cocktail that was created after 1960. (Okay, I know I did the Godfather, but that was just one drink out of several dozen.) So, you must believe me when I tell you that discovering this drink was from Prohibition sent shock waves through my soul.

I know it sounds like some modern tropical drink you’d expect to find on an island out in the South Pacific, but this cocktail is made with some of the best of the originals when it comes to alcohol. There isn’t one single ounce of banana flavored liqueur or even a hint of chocolate for that matter. It’s just plain old gin, grenadine, orange juice and absinthe.

How did a cocktail without a hint of banana get a name with monkey in it? I’ll tell you. Turns out a surgeon by the name of Serge Voronoff was experimenting with ways to help men get their groove back. One thing he discovered that may (or may not) have worked was to implant monkey glands in their scrotum. This procedure supposedly helped many a man, including W.B. Yeats, “rise” to the occasion throughout the 20’s and 30’s. It became such a popular procedure in fact, that Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, decided to create a cocktail commemorating the procedure. Of course back then there were no banana liqueurs. The closest thing was probably absinthe with its licorice flavor. And since Harry was in Paris, where absinthe was among the more popular alcohols, why not mix it into a drink dedicated to the monkey?

Although there’s no proof that drinking the Monkey Gland will help men in the bedroom the way today’s little blue pill might, tossing back one or two will definitely lower their inhibitions enough to at least get them through the door.

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Monkey Gland

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon absinthe
  • 1/2 teaspoon grenadine

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least a minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

Spiced Lamb Kabobs

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Labeled lamb kabobs

I know the standard choice for Easter is usually a leg of lamb or ham but I thought I’d spice things up this year (no pun intended) and give you some kabobs.

I know kabobs aren’t as formal as a nice leg of lamb or spiral-cut ham, but they’re a great choice if you’re having a large party. The best thing about these kabobs is you don’t need a fork or knife to eat them. Those skewers make them a great pick-up food, and if you buy three or four pounds of ground lamb, you can make a lot of them.

Because of the ground lamb, these kabobs are almost like big meatballs, which means the kids will gobble them up. But it’s not just their meatball-like qualities that will make them a big hit. It’s because of all the yummy spices mixed in. The paprika, cumin, oregano and mint give these kabobs a nice Middle Eastern flair, turning your Easter dinner into something truly unexpected.

close up kabob

Spiced Lamb Kabobs (adapted from Saveur Magazine)

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1/2 an onion, grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon smoked applewood sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

Directions:

  1. Combine the lamb and onion in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the paprika, salt, cumin, oregano, mint and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour the spice mixture over the lamb. Using your hands, mix everything together until well combined.
  3. Divide the lamb mixture into 4 portions. Roll into cylinders and slide the skewers into the center of each. Press the meat around the skewer to make sure it holds. Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  4. While the lamb chills, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice and garlic in a bowl until well combined and set aside.
  5. Heat a grill to about 350 degrees F. Grill the kabobs until nicely browned on the outside and medium on the inside, 6 – 8 minutes. Serve immediately with the yogurt sauce.

Matzah-Crusted Salmon

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labeled salmon

Breadcrumbs are a staple in my house.  Mainly because my sons are big fans of anything breaded. While chicken tenders are their first choice when it comes to dinner, they’ve also been known to gobble down the occasional fish stick or piece of pork schnitzel. If the protein can be breaded, they’re in. That’s why I always have a box of breadcrumbs on the shelf. I use at least a cup or two a week, whether it’s as a coating or to add depth to something as simple as a meatball. But what do you do when Passover comes around and there’s no bread for eight whole days? You find alternatives.

One such alternative is this delicious matzah-crusted salmon. I discovered this recipe about three years ago in Better Homes and Gardens and I’ve made it every Pesach since. See, while it’s pretty easy to get through the first two or three days of Passover, making dinner for the next five gets kind of tricky once you realize you still can’t eat any bread or pasta or anything else that’s been made with wheat, oats, rye, barley, or spelt. Let me explain.

When the Jews escaped Egypt, they didn’t have enough time to let their bread rise. So, instead of nice loaves of bread to sustain them in the desert, all they had to eat were the flat matzah crackers. Every Passover Jews all over the world stop eating leavened bread for eight days and eat matzah to commemorate this historic event.

This recipe not only helps fulfill that meal void you may find yourself in late in the Passover week, it also helps use up the extra matzah you probably have on the shelf. And it’s sooooo much tastier than a fourth or fifth day of matzah and haroset sandwiches… trust me. But the best thing about this recipe is that much like those breaded chicken tenders or fish sticks, my boys lapped it up. And they lapped it up because the very healthy, delicious salmon was covered with a yummy, crunchy, kosher crust.

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Matzah-Crusted Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 2 squares of matzah
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 skinless salmon filets

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Drizzle olive oil in a large baking dish and set aside.
  2. Place the matzah, dill, salt and pepper in a food processor, and process until you have coarse crumbs; transfer to a shallow bowl.
  3. Brush each of the salmon fillets with oil and dredge in the matzah mixture until fully coated; press the matzah onto the salmon to make sure it sticks. Place in a prepared baking dish and bake, uncovered for 10-13 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and fresh dill.

Le Rat Blanc

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labeled cocktail

St. Patrick’s Day is Tuesday, so of course I wanted to make a green cocktail. But when it comes to green alcohol there are only a few possibilities: midori, green creme de menthe, and that evil, mind-bending classic, Absinthe. While Absinthe would have been impossible to come by ten years ago, it’s made a huge come back here in the states.

Originally a favorite among artists and authors during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the green elixir was affectionately known as the green fairy. Much like the leprechauns, this cocktail could bring good luck and bad. While it wasn’t known to leave out little pots o’ gold, this fairy was known to elicit images and illusions that made the greatest of tales from the likes of Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allen Poe. But along with the creativity and innovation, this little green fairy also caused quite a bit of strife. Paul Verlaine supposedly shot his lover while under its influence, and it’s believed that Vincent Van Gogh, who constantly painted in a variety of greens, cut off his ear after taking a sip or two.

These occurrences fueled the belief that absinthe caused hallucinations and turned some into raging lunatics which is why it was banned in Switzerland in 1910, the United States in 1912 and France in 1915. St. Patrick’s Day and its own little green men have also been known to create havoc, thanks to all those pints of Guinness and/or green beer that are imbibed in Irish pubs everywhere. So, instead of getting drunk on bad beer, I thought you might prefer to get drunk on a cocktail that was known to bring adventure back in its day. I know I would. And since absinthe was eventually allowed back in the States, there’s no better time to sip it than now.

While the classic way to drink the liqueur is all by itself with water poured over a sugar cube, there are a few other options including the Le Rat Blanc. Although I don’t have a story to go with how this cocktail was created, I do know that it can be found with several other Absinthe-based cocktails in 1946’s Gentleman’s Companion. So, forget about the green beer this year and enjoy the green fairy instead. After all a nymph who’s been around for over a hundred years can’t be all bad… Right?

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Le Rat Blanc

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 oz absinthe
  • 1/2 oz. ouzo

Directions:

  1. Mix both ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least a minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

Mediterranean Chicken

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Remember those awesome blackeyed peas I got from Melissa’s Produce a few weeks ago? Well, turns out they have a whole line of steamed veggies all cooked and ready to be added to your favorite dishes. So, since I was such a huge fan of the peas, I asked for some of their other veggies to try. They were nice enough to send me some garbanzo beans, beets and artichoke hearts.

I’m a huge fan of garbanzo beans. I add them to my salads, blend them into different flavored hummuses and even cook with them. So, when Melissa’s sent me a few boxes, you know I was super excited. Then when I found this chicken recipe in Better Homes and Gardens, that excitement increased to elation. Chicken and garbanzo beans are two of my favorite foods. Put them together with dried apricots and turmeric and you have a dinner that’s hearty and delicious.

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But what makes this meal an ideal weeknight option are the garbanzo beans. Because Melissa’s has done all the work for you and already steamed them, all you have to do is slice open the bag and add them to the pan. Since you don’t have to soak and drain the beans, it only takes about 30 minutes to make this dinner instead of 24 hours. And with a wild family of boys, not having to take an extra day to soak beans makes this dish a no brainer in my house.

chicken in the pan

Mediterranean Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 box of Melissa’s Steamed garbanzo beans
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup pitted green olives, halved

Directions:

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove 2 1-inch-wide strips of the peel from the orange. Squeeze the juice from the orange into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, turmeric, salt, cumin and coriander together in a medium bowl.
  3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and add it to the skillet. Add the orange peels. Cook the chicken until it’s no longer pink, about 4 minutes per side.
  4. Stir in the juice, garbanzo beans, half the scallions, the chicken stock, dried apricots and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the olives and cook for another minute.
  5. Remove the chicken and discard the orange peel. Place the chicken over cooked white rice on a plate. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and serve.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Melissa’s provided me with the garbanzo beans for recipe testing. As always, any opinion expressed is my own and is not influenced in any way by the manufacturer/PR firm as I only review products that I have personally tested and endorse.