09/29/16
Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Gyros vs. Schawarma

My old pal Megan, freshly returned from a recent European jaunt, asks:

“Two things, on searching for shawarma here in Portland, I found a restaurant that sold shawarma but in parentheses labeled it gyros. Are they the same thing? And do you know where I can get some good shawarma?”

(BTW – your timing is perfect, Megan, as we’ve just posted not one, but TWO gyros recipes:

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas, and Easy Skillet Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

Ground Lamb Gyro Gorditas

Meg,

Both were derived in the 18th or 19th century from the Turkish Doner Kebab. Doner (rotating) and Kebab (grilled meat.)

When it was introduced to Greece, they named it “gyros,” Greek for “turn.” When it arrived in the Middle East, it was translated into the Arabic word for turning, “shawarma.”

In Greece the meat is typically pork, lamb, or beef, while the Middle Eastern version, not surprisingly, is never pork, but can be lamb, beef or chicken. In America, the meat is often a combination of beef & lamb.

The three major differences:

1. The Flavors

Gyros will have a more “Mediterranean” selection of herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary), while shawarma, not surprisingly, leans towards the “middle eastern” spice wheel (cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seed, turmeric.)

Either may have cumin, or pepper, and they’ll both will certainly have garlic.

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 2. The Meat

Besides the spices, is the form of meat. The meat for a gyro is a ground blend, usually some combination of lamb and beef, formed into a loaf before roasted on a spit. The shawarma meat cone is made from packed-down slices of marinated meat—often chicken, sometimes lamb, and occasionally even goat.

3. Toppings

Lastly, gyros are typically topped with onion, tomato, and tzatziki—a cold sauce made of strained yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil. Schawarma, on the other hand, has a more diverse salad-bar,including tahini, tabbouleh, fattoush, cucumber, and hummus…but no tzatziki.

I love them both!

As for my favorite spot, that’s easy, my #1 for all Middle Eastern foods is Wilsonville’s Dar Essalam Moroccan Restaurant. (The apricot lamb-shank tagine is to die for, as well!)

Chef Perry
joinmykitchen.com

 

06/5/15

How long should ground beef sit in the fridge?

ground beef in fridge

A SimplySmartDinnerPlans subscriber asks:

“In your vast wisdom and knowledge how long do you believe raw ground beef can sit in the fridge?”

Well, first of all, thank you! That will make my wife laugh for hours! :)

Ground beef:

According to the USDA: Raw ground meats, all poultry, seafood, and variety meats: Refrigerate 1 to 2 days. Raw roasts, steaks, and chops (beef, veal, lamb, and pork): Refrigerate 3 to 5 days. Cooked meat, poultry, and seafood: Store in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days.

Taking ANYTHING the government says with a massive grain of salt, my limit is typically 4-5 days tops. Rule of thumb, when in doubt, throw it out. Grey is bad, any unpleasant smell is bad.

Also, if you’ve defrosted your ground beef in the microwave, you should use it immediately.

Commercially processed ground beef is iffy enough with out worrying about age!

Chef Perry
SimplySmartDinnerPlans.com

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03/28/14

Steak for a crowd, without breaking the bank.

Flank Steak & Pasta

SimplySmartDinnerPlans subscriber Nicole asks:

My high school daughter has a dance next weekend and her and her friends have decided to have a home dinner instead of going out.

They want Steak & pasta. Do you have any suggestions for a menu? There will be 10 of them. Me and one other mom will be putting this together and would like something fairly easy, not too pricey and teen friendly.

Any help would be appreciated

– Nicole

———————-

Nicole,

Thank you for your email!

Okay, steak and pasta for 10, without breaking the bank…we can do this! To get the most bang for your buck, flavor-wise, I would go with skirt or flank steak. It’s fast and easy to pan fry, moderately priced, melts in your mouth, and brings HUGE steak flavor to the table, without needing to provide a huge serving of steak.

Keep in mind that for most of history (and still in much of the world), meat was used as a flavoring agent to enhance dishes, not a giant slab of protein served as the centerpiece of a meal. Not only is this a more economical eating style, but it’s healthier, too.

This is one of my favorite steak recipes, and I think it would be a perfect fit by adding some nice hot al dente fettuccine, tossed in the pan juices. Top with the thin-sliced flank steak, alongside a big salad and some steamed veggies, and you’ll have a winner!

If you REALLY want to rock it, sprinkle everything with some grated asiago cheese, just before serving!

flank-steakThe flank steak, also known as bavette, is a beef steak cut from the abdominal muscles of the cow. It is long, thin, and full of tough connective tissue.

It is usually marinated before being broiled or grilled whole. Because it is tough, you usually slice it thinly on a diagonal across the grain to sever the tough fibers and make the flavorful steak chewable.

I’ve found that if I cook it quickly, over the hottest heat I can manage, I don’t need a marinate, and get more the true beef flavor. For my money, this is one of the best tasting cuts on the cow.

Pan-Seared Flank Steak with Fettuccine
Serves 6

1 1/2 lbs. fettuccine pasta
2 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 1½-lb. piece flank steak, about ¾” thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch green onions, sliced (green and white parts)

Cook the fettuccine in salted water, until al dente. Keep warm. See our post: “5 Tips for Perfect Pasta” Reserve 1-2 cups of the pasta water.

Warm butter and garlic in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until garlic is fragrant, about 5 minutes. Discard garlic. Set butter aside in a warm place.

Pat steak dry with paper towels, then season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat. When pan begins to smoke, coat with oil, then add steak (oil will spatter). For rare (or “properly cooked”), sear until almost black, about 4 minutes on each side.

Don’t move steak until ready to turn.

NoForksNote: Never, ever, ever turn a steak with a meat fork, a knife, or anything else that punctures the meat (and lets all of those amazing juices escape). Always turn your steaks (or chicken, or pork) with tongs.

Transfer the steak to a platter, and top with garlic butter. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm, and allow steak to rest for 15 minutes. Pour 1/2 of any juices that collect in the platter, back into the pan, reserve the other half.

While the steak is resting, bring the juices in the pan up to medium heat. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of pasta water and reduce by half. Using tongs, add your pasta to the pan and toss to coat evenly. Remove pasta from from hot pan immediately, and set aside. Keep warm.

Cut across flank steak the grain into ¼” slices and portion beside (or on top of) the noodles. Spoon the reserved juices over steak, and top with green onions and grated asiago cheese (optional).

Serve with a big green salad and steamed veggies.

Enjoy!

-Chef Perry

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Mother and Daughter Making a SaladAt SimplySmartDinnerPlans, we’re all about helping busy families get back to the dinner table and share delicious, nutritious meals together, by helping you with the research, planning, and list-making that takes so much time…time that most of us just don’t have.

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02/26/14

Q&A: Foam from canned beans?

Foamy Beans


Chef Perry – I don’t know if you know the answer to this, and maybe I don’t want to know the answer either… but why when I rinse my  canned kidney beans d0 I see “foam”?

It looked like I had rinsed “soap” out….?

– Juliann

Dear Juliann:

Canned beans, like all canned products, are “cooked” in the sealed can to a minimum temp to make them safe for shelf life.

This process releases the natural starches into the water the beans are canned in, as this sits there for the life of the can, it thickens, and when you add fresh water to it, the starch creates a foam.

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free newsletter; we’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each week. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

Rinsing BeansYou really don’t have to rinse canned beans, depending on the usage (though it does reduce the sodium) it’s primarily to remove that excess starch that leeches out of the beans. If you’re making a thick soup/stew, then using them is okay (remember that you’re using more sodium that way, however).

For salads or salsas though, unrinsed  canned beans would be really slimy (again from the starches).

It really depends what you want your final products to be.

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Beans Soaking

Of course the best way to avoid this would be to soak a couple of cups of dried beans in a half gallon of room-temp water overnight, before cooking. A fraction of the sodium, better texture, better flavor, and it’s usually cheaper too!

Thanks for asking, I hope that clears things up for you!

Chef Perry
hautemealz.com

07/3/13

Q & A: How much do I cook for a party?

hautemealz.com subscriber Donna asks:

“I’d love to host some dinner parties this summer in our new house, but I never know how much to cook, especially for a large group. Any tips on serving in big numbers?”

One of the most frustrating aspects of cooking for a crowd is the fear of running out of food.

I HATE seeing an empty pan on my serving table! So, how much should you buy? Too little, and you risk running out, too much and you’ve spent more than you need to.

photo25 - Copy

Portion Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines to help you calculate how many people you can serve with that raw chunk of meat on the butcher’s shelf…

When planning a meal, it is always better to purchase too much meat than not enough. Always be prepared for people with larger appetites.

The “Mystery Guest”

Mystery-GuestOne trick I use is to add a “mystery” guest for every 4 confirmed.

In other words, I plan 5 portions for 4 people, 10 portions for 8, 15 for 12, etc. If there are leftovers, the cooked meat will keep in the refrigerator for several days or the unused portions may be frozen for long term storage.

Party on!

– Chef Perry

06/14/13

Q & A: The Healthy Foodie

Angel asks:

Q: Regarding dieting, healthy eating, and shopping…I’m curious if you find special challenges on this endeavor since your a chef or if your knowledge of food helps.

I’m not a chef, but I do love food and my knowledge of nutrition has been very slowly expanding since I had my son. I find myself often wishing I knew more about the taste dynamic of different herbs, spices and foods that would help me to come up with more tasty versions of healthy dishes. Any tips?

Continue reading

03/19/12

Liquid Measurements vs. Dry Measurements

measuring cupsOne of our SimplySmartDinnerPlans subscribers asked me this week: “Totally novice question, but is there a difference between dry measure and liquid measure? I’ve always wondered, but can’t figure out why it would be different & afraid to ask.  Thank you!”

This is a great question, if only because the answer is so darn confusing! I would say that, in my expert opinion, the answer is… “mostly no.”

Nobody, with the possible exception of Alton Brown, really understand the conversion process between weight and mass measurements. (That outta get us a bunch of “It’s really very simple…” responses from the math nerds…) You see, in cooking measurements, all liquids are liquid measurements, but most dry ingredients are also listed in liquid measurements…but not all.

MY KITCHEN Outreach ProgramBy the way, if you’re enjoying this article, please subscribe to our free newsletter!

We’ll send seven amazing dinner recipes and a shopping list to your inbox each Friday.

Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk kids.

So, first of, let’s clarify the difference between a “Liquid Measurement” and a “Dry Measurement”.

Liquid Measurements

In the United States, liquid measurement is not only used for liquids such as water and milk, it is also used when measuring other ingredients such as flour, sugar, shortening, butter, and spices. Hence, a “cup is a cup” be it milk or sugar.

Dry Measurements

Dry measurements can be listed in liquid amounts (tsp, Tbs, cup) though the two usually branch off at this point, with dry ingredients being listed in fractions of, or whole pounds, and liquids listing as pints, quarts, and gallons. Even then, there is some cross-over, especially when measuring fresh produce (e.g. berries are sold by the quart, apples by the bushel, or peck).

Here’s where you really start to develop a twitch…

“Do not confuse the ounce of weight with the fluid ounce, because they are not the same; there is no standard conversion between weight and volume unless you know the density of the ingredient. To make matters worse, there are different kinds of weight measurement; Avoirdupois weight, Troy weight, and Apothecaries weight. In the U.S., when someone refers to pounds and ounces of weight (especially in cooking) they are usually referring to Avoirdupois weight.”

Good grief…I think I’ll just order a pizza!

Okay, maybe it’s not really that bad. With most cooking, you can get pretty close with some simple conversion charts, and, unlike baking, in cooking, close is usually good enough. This is why I don’t bake…our dough-master Terry does the meticulously measured baking, while I lounge about casually flinging handful’s of stuff into a saute pan. (Btw – don’t tell him I told you this…Terry is kind of a math nerd, but at least he’s one of those cool math nerds.)

Cooking is much more forgiving, and being off 1/16 of a teaspoon of salt in a recipe isn’t going to be noticeable in the final dish.

Here are a couple of great charts I found, which should help you get into the ballpark without needing a slide-rule and a scientific calculator…

food measurement conversion chart

food measurement conversion chart

So, I hope that helps…comment below with any further questions, or to chime in on this, we welcome your comments!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make sure I have enough firkins in my hogshead…

-Chef Perry

03/4/12

Q&A: Regarding dieting and healthy eating…

Angel asks: Regarding dieting and healthy eating…I’m curious if you find special challenges on this endeavor since your a chef or if it your knowledge of food helps. I’m not a chef, but I do love food and my knowledge of nutrition has been very slowly expanding since I had my son. I find myself often wishing I knew more about the taste dynamic of different herbs, spices and foods that would help me to come up with more tasty versions of healthy dishes.

Continue reading