Wednesday, May 20, 2015

{ Party Food } Spicy Feta Sliders on Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

When it comes to creating recipes, I rather enjoy mixing up cultures, borrowing spices from one and adding them to ingredients associated with another just to see what happens. My first thought was that it's like a "melting pot" style recipe but then considering this is a food blog, it occurred to me that this phrase conjured up the idea of an actual pot melting. Not the best imagery for a food blog.

Anyway, on to this recipe I'm sharing today. Earlier this year when we were in a bit of a heatwave, auntie and I decided to fire up the grill for the first time in 2015. I starting digging through the fridge to see what I had and this recipe was born as a full-size hamburger. Lean ground grass fed beef, the basis of many good American burgers, met up with Greek Feta and Moroccan harissa (this time around, it was Mina Harissa Spicy Green Pepper Sauce). I made it a few more times before deciding to make them into sliders and contrast the spiciness with Hawaiian sweet rolls. With that last tweak, I decided these babies were ready to share.

As noted in cookie and meatball recipes I've shared, I have a thing about uniformity when it comes to recipes that call for making multiples of things. So when I came across this trick on Pinterest to make uniform patties, I was like, "Holy cow! Why didn't I think of that!" She used random jar lids lined with plastic wrap to form perfect patties. I immediately went straight to my mason jar obsession and knew that my jelly jar lids were the perfect slider size. The fact that canning lids have two parts means that making perfectly formed slider patties will be super quick and easy. Just stuff the meat into the lid applying pressure with the palm of your hand so that the edge of the lid helps to cut away the excess meat, then swipe your finger around the circumference, wiping away the excess meat hanging over the lip of the lid, flip the lid over and push the removable flat part out of the ring, then carefully peel it off and ta-da! Perfectly formed patty. I made 10 slider patties in no time flat!

The rolls are a total splurge for me as they are much higher in carbs than my normal meals. Not to mention that I try hard to refrain from white flour and white sugar. So as presented here, this recipe is definitely a once-in-a-while treat so perfect for a party or special occasion. However, it's a cinch to make these burgers paleo by wrapping them up in lettuce or using thick slices of grilled sweet potato as the "bun" component (the potato bun idea I saw on Pinterest and I can't wait to try it!).

So here we are. Just in time for Memorial Day – the official start of the grilling season. Make these because who doesn't like mini food?

Until next time ... xo, ani

This is the second in eight recipes I'm developing using Mina Harissa. This time, I'm using the spicy green pepper sauce. It adds a tanginess that reminds me of raw tomatillo salsa. Mina Harissa is available at Whole Foods and Bristol Farms. Also, you can certainly make these into regular-sized burgers if you don't want to go the sweet roll route. If you're going for uniformly sized patties like I have here, you'll also need a jar lid slightly larger than your bun. I used a canning lid from my 8 ounce Mason jar.

Yield: 10 sliders (2 1/2 ounce patties)


1 pound 96% lean ground beef (grass fed, if possible)
¼ medium onion
1 large clove garlic, peeled
½ cup packed parsley leaves
⅓ cup packed mint leaves, larger leaves torn to fit measuring cup
 cup Mina Harissa Spicy Green Pepper Sauce
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grates or grill pan

For assembly
10 Hawaiian sweet rolls, sliced in half to make buns
20 thin slices of cucumber (half a medium cucumber)
10 thin slices of tomato (1 1/2 medium vine ripened tomatoes)
20 leaves of assorted baby greens
 cup mayonnaise
2-3 tablespoons Mina Harissa Spicy Green Pepper Sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon spicy mustard, or old style dijon
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves


Place meat into a mixing bowl using your fingers to break up. Pulse onion and garlic together in a food processor until just chopped. Toss in parsley and mint; pulse to chop. Add harissa, salt and pepper; pulse until combined. Using a rubber spatula, scrap harissa mixture into meat bowl. Add the cheese and olive oil then use hands to combine well, careful not to overwork the meat. Press meat into the canning lid of an 8 ounce jar. Clean edges then pop meat out and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat for remaining meat, ending up with 10 patties.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium high. While the pan or grill is warming, prepare cucumber and tomato slices and make the spicy mayonnaise by combining the mayonnaise with 2-3 tablespoons of harissa, mustard and chopped mint in a small bowl; refrigerate until ready to assemble. When grill is hot, brush olive oil on grates using paper towels and grill tongs (or brush grill pan if using) then grill patties for 4 minutes on first side and 2 minutes on second side or until desired doneness. Toast sliced buns, cut-side down on grill until desired grill marks appear; remove buns.

To assembly sliders, place 2 leaves of baby greens on a bottom bun. Add a slice of tomato, 2 slices of cucumber then the patty. Place a dollop of mayonnaise on the patty then cover with top bun and serve.

Disclosure: Cassablanca Foods, the maker of Mina Harissa, is providing some compensation for recipe development. This is the second of eight recipes that I'll be sharing through the end of summer. To help offset the cost of running this blog I sometimes take on sponsored posts but rest assured,  I only work with brands I love and use myself and feel 100% confident in sharing these brands with you. As always, all opinions, photographs and recipes are wholly my own. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thyme and Orange Roasted Mulberries on Chèvre Smeared Toast

When mulberries showed up in my farmer's market box, I had no idea what they were or what to do with them. A bit of crowdsourcing later and I got tons of suggestions from making jam, to popping them straight into one's mouth, to roasting with honey.

I went with a quick roast to soften the berries and help them release their juices. This makes a simple, quick breakfast for two. On toast. Who doesn't like toast??


Yield: 2 servings


4 slices whole grain seed artisan bread
1 tablespoon unsalted European butter (Kerrygold is my favorite)
4 ounces fresh mulberries
juice of half an orange
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, divided
1 teaspoon organic raw honey (I like Trader Joe's)
4 tablespoons goat cheese (also called chèvre)
Salt Farm Blackberry Sea Salt or flaked sea salt for garnish, optional


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a second small rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray; set aside. 

Spread butter on one side of all four slices of bread. Place on unlined prepared baking sheet butter side up; set aside.

Reserve 8 small berries and set aside. Remove stems from remaining berries then toss with orange juice, 1 teaspoon of the thyme leaves and honey in a small bowl to cover well. Pour onto foil-lined baking sheet. Place both berries and bread into oven and roast for 8 to 12 minutes until bread is toasted and berries are softened. Remove from oven. Mash the berries with a fork and pour back into a small bowl. Spread a tablespoon of goat cheese on each of the toasts. Divide the berry mixture between the toasts. Top with a fresh berry and sprinkle remaining thyme evenly over all four toasts. Finish with sprinkling of Blackberry Sea Salt or flaked sea salt, optional.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spring Vegetable Salad with Israeli Couscous and Harissa Dressing

A healthy, colorful salad bursting with spring vegetables and Israeli couscous finished with an ever-so-slightly spicy dressing featuring Mina Harissa will make a tasty addition to your Mother's Day brunch this coming Sunday.

I love everything about this spring vegetable salad.

From the fava beans (my current darling of ingredients, obviously) …

To the asparagus (oh how I adore thee, asparagus, from tarts to salads)…

And the delicious dried Turkish apricots…

To my latest discovery of red corn. Yes! Red corn. Isn't it lovely? I picked it up at my favorite produce warehouse over the weekend and truth be told, I just saw a huge bin of corn in one of the walk-ins and knowing I wanted to add fresh corn to this salad, I just grabbed it without even bothering to pull back the husks and take a look. I never do that. I'm usually quite obsessive when picking out fresh corn in the produce aisle of my usual market. But I was in a hurry. Needless to say, I tried to play it cool when I was at the checkout and the gal asked if she could pull the husk back and see which corn I had. Sure, go ahead. And she does and I'm shocked to see it's red and she's like, oh we just got this in. Did you know it was red? Uh, no, says me, I've never seen bought fresh red corn on the cob before. It's lower in starch, she says, and if you don't want to lose the color, don't cook it in water. Instead, she adds, eat it raw or grill and I'm like, great! Thanks for the tip and inside I'm thinking, don't ruin my dish, corn.

It didn't. In fact, I LOVE that it added gorgeous color and tastes really clean, slightly sweet with a nice bite when eaten raw. 

In the end, the star of this salad is definitely the dressing. Because, c'mon, isn't it always? Don't lie.

I wanted something a little unexpected to counter balance the sweetness from the corn and fava beans. Something for that lovely, toothsome Israeli couscous (also known as pearl couscous) to soak up. I've been dipping into my stash of Mina Harissa and adding it to nearly everything these few months. Depending on what the dish is, it really elevates the humdrum to wow. Sometimes it's just a touch to add that little unexpected complexity to a sauce, sometimes it's the sole ingredient in a quick marinade, and sometimes, it's added straight from the jar to tacos. Adding it to the dressing just seemed so natural and it definitely was the spicy yang to the sweet yin of the veggies and apricot.

I hope you give this one a try. Maybe even surprise mom with it on the Mother's Day brunch menu. I'm sure she'll get a 'kick' out of trying something different. 

Happy Mother's Day to all my mommy readers. Until next time … xo, ani 


This salad is pretty customizable. Can't find fresh red corn? Use fresh yellow or white. Don't like asparagus? Substitute it with broccolini or thinly sliced leeks. Not a fan of fava beans (gasp!), drop in some fresh peas instead. 

Yield: 8 servings


For the salad
1 ½ pounds fava bean pods (or 1 ½ cups fresh shelled)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous, raw
8 - 10 spears asparagus, jumbo or large
1 ear red corn
4 dried apricots
⅓ cup raw pistachio meats

For the salad dressing
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons Mina Harissa Red Pepper Sauce, or to taste
2 teaspoons raw organic honey
½ teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
½ teaspoon sumac, optional
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

For garnish
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, leaves only


Remove fava beans from their pods. Set beans aside and discard pods. See this video for help on how to remove beans from their pods. 

Fill a saucepan with 4 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil. Whisk in salt. Add couscous, bring back to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 9 minutes or until al dente. Using a large bowl to catch the water, drain the couscous into a large sieve. Return water to saucepan and keep on a low simmer. Rinse couscous under cool running water; spread couscous on a large rimmed baking sheet to cool.

Drop fava beans into saucepan of simmering water. Cook for 4 minutes. Fill a bowl with ice water. Drain fava beans and immerse them into the ice water bath to halt cooking. When cool enough to touch, pierce one end of the bean skin with your thumbnail and then gently squeeze the bean to release it from its skin. Repeat with remaining beans; set aside. 

Holding the asparagus by the woody end, use a vegetable peeler to shave the asparagus into thin strips; set aside, discarding woody ends. 

Place a dish towel on a steady work surface. Remove husk and silk from corn cob. Rub the corn cob with a damp paper towel to remove any remaining silk; discard silk and husk. Cut the bottom end of the corn cob to create a stable bottom. Stand corn cob upright on dish towel and using a sharp knife, cut down vertically to remove the corn from the cob, careful to keep fingers away from the blade. Set corn kernels aside. 

Finely chop the apricots, then the mint; set both aside.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet (cast iron works great) on medium heat. Gently toss in the pistachios and toast, stirring to keep the pistachios from burning. Toasting should only take about a minute or so. Remove from pan and set aside. 

Place a medium saucepan on medium heat. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add onions and garlic. Stir continuously, sweeting the onions until softened and translucent and the garlic is aromatic. Whisk in the apple cider, harissa, honey, Chinese five spice, sumac (if using) and sea salt. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Take off the heat. Whisk in ⅓ cup olive oil. Add the asparagus and toss to coat well. The residual heat will gently cook the asparagus. Let stand 30 seconds then remove asparagus from pan. 

To assemble, add the salad ingredients to a large serving platter or bowl. Toss to mix well, then drizzle with harissa dressing. Garnish with mint. Salad can be served at room temperature but left to chill out in the refrigerator, the flavors intensify so this can easily be made the day before serving. Keep in a tightly covered container for up to 3 days. 

Disclosure: I was compensated by Casablanca Foods, the maker of Mina Harissa, to develop this recipe. As always, recipe, photography and opinions are wholly my own and are not influenced by Casablanca Foods. I only accept sponsorships from products I love and use myself. If you enjoy my recipes, please consider supporting the brands that help keep this site going. Mina Harissa is available at Whole Foods and Bristol Farms or online.