Saturday, December 3, 2016

Polynesian Kebobs

This is a recipe that I obtained from an old cookbook I found at the bottom of some desk drawer somewhere. The cookbook, an old softcover, was published by the Rival Manufacturing Company in 1982. The "Rival" brand name is still around and they manufacture small kitchen appliances. Whether they still published the cookbook, Time to Enjoy: A Quick and Creative Recipe Collection, I do not know.

The recipe intrigued me simply because I enjoy kebob (kebab) cooking. That is, broiling or grilling meat and/or veggie on a skewer. The recipe is termed "Polynesian." I gather because it has pineapple chunks. Somehow, somewhere along the line, adding pineapple to a dish made it Hawaiian or Polynesian. Just as adding soy sauce to a dish makes it "Asian."

This is a very easy to prepare recipe that calls for Italian salad dressing, the type found in any store or supermarket. If you're loath to use a processed product that comes in a can or jar, you can make your own. Here's a quicky method: combine in a salad cruet or quart mason jar with a tight fitting lid, 3/4 cup olive oil; 1/4 cup red wine vinegar; 1 finely minced garlic clove or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder; 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried; 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley or 1 tablespoon dried. If desired, you can add 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, but this is optional. Some like, some don't. Shake well, and serve. It renders about 1 cup of salad dressing.

Note that in this recipe, I served the kebobs with couscous. But you can serve it over rice or any other grain.


1 pound beef sirloin, cut in 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup Italian dressing
1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 zucchini, cut in bite-size chunks

1. In bowl, combine sirloin cubes and salad dressing. Allow to stand a few minutes.
2. Drain pineapple chunks, reserving liquid. In small saucepan, combine liquid, brown sugar, soy sauce and cornstarch; heat until boiling and thickened.
3. On skewers, alternate beef, pineapple and zucchini. Brush with remaining salad dressing marinade.
4. Broil 10 minutes or until beef is cooked, turning skewers half-way through cooking. Serve with sauce.
    Yield: 4 servings.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lamb Shanks with Apricots

This recipe is probably Arabic in nature. Which means its original providence is Persia, or modern day Iraq. In the seventh century, Muslim armies conquered Persia, and the Arabs moved their capital from Damascus in Syria to Baghdad, the heart of the former Persian empire. And thus began the great change in Arabic cooking. The desert Arabs had subsisted on sheep's milk, barley, mutton and dates. In contrast, the caliphs of Baghdad enjoyed truffles from the Arabian Desert, cakes from Egypt and couscous from North Africa. Arab cooking underwent a transformation. Now they were dining on spices from India and China, apples from Syria, raisins from Jerusalem. and exotic fruits, such as  apricots, from Central Asia. And this all went into their dishes. This, in turn, was transferred to Spain with their conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Eventually, this was co-opted by the Crusaders, who took it back to Europe, and introduced strange and fascinating new recipes from the Holy Land.

Which leads to the current recipe listed. A round-about historical perspective, I admit, but a damn good meal for any occasion. And one which I know you will enjoy.


4 lamb shanks
1/2 cup flour
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup sliced dried apricots
2 tablespoons honey 
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2  teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Rinse lamb shanks under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In a plate, combine the flour with the salt, pepper, oregano and garlic powder. Dredge the shanks in the flour.
3. Heat olive oil over moderate heat in a large pan or skillet. Add shanks and brown on all sides.
4. Add chicken broth, cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
5. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Lower heat, cover and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. or until shanks are tender.
   Yield: 4 servings.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Lamb Curry

I'm a fan of curries; mainly because I like fragrant and spicy dishes. Coming from a Latino culture, this is a given. The origin of curry dishes is India. It is the Tamil word for "sauce." Today we think of it more as a seasoned gravy. This is thanks to our British brethren who, during the 18th century, adopted the ides of curry, modified it, and made it an international dish.

Curry also has a history in Pakistan and Thailand. Indian curry is made with a mixture known as masala. This comes from the Hindi word for "spice." It's a combination of spices such as garlic, ginger, onions, and chili paste. While Thai curry is made from a paste of chilies, herbs and vegetables. Today, curries are popular world-wide.

Below is my recipe for lamb curry. Let me note that curry is usually served with plain boiled rice. This time around I served it on a bed of tubettini noodles.


3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and slice into thin rings
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 tomatoes, rinsed and chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2/3 cup chicken bouillon
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 1/4 cups unflavored yogurt

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet or pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute (do not let garlic brown).
2. Add ginger, lamb, garam masala and chili powder. Cook, stirring, until the lamb is browned.
3. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, bouillon, salt and pepper, and half the yogurt. Cover and simmer over low heat until meat is tender (about 30 minutes). Stir in the remaining yogurt and serve on a bed of pasta or rice.
   Yield: 4 servings.    

Friday, November 4, 2016

Basic White Sauce

It mazes me how many folks have trouble making a basic white sauce. To some it's the easiest thing in the world. To others it is not. And I concede to the latter viewpoint. What is seemingly the easiest thing to make can turn into a holy mess. Too much flour and it's lumpy. Too much milk or cream and it's runny. Where is the happy medium? The French term for a basic white sauce is béchamel. Leave it to the French to fancy up something so simple. However, there are some things worth noting about this preparation. Almost all experts in the know agree on one basic point: when adding milk to the  flour, the milk must be hot. This guarantees a perfectly smooth sauce. So take the time to heat up the milk in an extra pot if you have to. That means warming the milk over low heat until it forms little bubbles.

A basic white sauce, despite its humble origins, can enliven almost any dish. It can turn leftovers into marvelous entrées. Add it to scrambled eggs and you have a whole different meal. It can enhance everything from mac n' cheese, to potato salad, to lasagna.

This is the Rivera family's basic white sauce recipe. An old stand-by that's been with us for generations, most likely through trial and error; and hopefully, will continue to grace our kitchen for generations to come.


2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash of paprika

1. In a cup or small bowl, make a paste of the flour with 2 tablespoons of the milk.
2. Combine with remaining ingredients in a saucepan.
3. Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until thickened.
    Yield: 1 cup 

Variations: If desired, you can add 1-2 tablespoons butter to the ingredients in the saucepan for a richer sauce. If you want to make it a cheese sauce, add 1/2 cup of your favorite grated cheese during cooking.