Mushroom Salad (No-Cook recipe, Perfect Side to Protein)

This is such a simple but surprisingly interesting dish. I made this last Sunday and served it with some grilled brisket, green beans with nuts and cranberries and brown rice with onion and dill. Let’s say it was more than what we needed. I think any of the sides alone would have sufficed. In the future, this particular recipe will be a go-to recipe when I want to cut some corners and offer up another side, but without any of the effort.

Mushroom Salad


  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 32 oz. oyster or crimini mushrooms, sliced (get 4 packets of 8-oz sliced ones to save some time)
  • 1/2 cup swiss or Jarlsberg cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped,
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1.4 tsp black pepper or to taste

In a small bowl, mix in the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to make the dressing. In a large bowl, combine the mushroom, cheese, parsley and drizzle the dressing. You may not need all of it, so be judicious. Serve with grilled protein, like a lean beef or chicken.

Serves 4.

Here are the nutritional facts:

Brown Rice, With Onions and Dill

This dish came out of nowhere and knocked the socks out of me last weekend, when we hosted two of our closest friends and their two visiting relatives. Out of the four dishes we served, this one was the stand out. It is a more interesting side than just plain rice (which we hardly do anymore). I like brown rice, I like dill and I like onions. Never thought about putting them together though.

Brown Rice, With Onions and Dill


  • 3 cups brown rice (rice cooker cups, not real cups)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste and/or for color

If you don’t have a rice cooker, go ahead and buy 2 or 3 6-ounce boxes of plain rice pilaf or just stop reading. Are you kidding me? Why wouldn’t you have a rice cooker? If you can make rice without a cooker, than do it. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring once in a while until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in dill and add pepper (start small, like 1/2 teaspoon and go from there). Transfer the rice into a large bowl and then fold n the onion mixture.

Serves 8.

Here are the nutrition facts:

Ton’s Lamb Pastry

This is not for the faint of heart.

Not only this dish is loaded with calories but it is also a bit of work. As fattening as this dish is, it is one of my signature dishes and I stand by it. Yes, it is a bit bad for you. Well, don’t eat so much of it, stupid.

I am proud of this dish. I’ve always wanted to do a “borek” (Turkish word for pastry that has some sort of layered ingredients) that resembles my mom’s. This is as close as I am going to get. Is it as good as my mom’s? I am not sure. I remember the taste of my mom’s pastries and I don’t think I will ever place it anywhere or in anything now. The taste is more of a memory than an actual taste. For all I know, her boreks may taste too pedestrian now (since I’ve become a spice junkie).

I make the lamb pastry frequently, primarily for others. We’ve had enough, I think. It is usually good (I constantly play with the ingredients so no two batches are identical in texture or taste) and people pay a lot of compliments so I will bank that.

Before I forget, this pastry goes well with red wine. I’ve catered a winemaker friends’ red wine release one year, serving this and the turkey meatballs in passata recipe.

My recipe for this dish was published in a Northwest wineries and recipes for their wines (representing Hestia Cellars) book in 2008/2009 timeframe but the fucking bitch who collected recipes (saying she authored it would be like calling Office Depot a publishing house instead of a printing company for printing my menus for the last week’s party) changed my recipe to a cheese/spinach version (which I had provided as a more vegetarian alternative but not as the main recipe). Needless to say, my chance to culinary stardom was squished expressly afterwards. Sigh.

Ton’s Lamb Pastry


  • 1 package Phylo dough
  • 2 Tbsps olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp or to taste, thyme, dried (1.5 tablespoons if fresh)
  • Italian parsley, a small handful, coarsely chopped
  • Salt, to taste         
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 300 ml fat-free milk (about 1 and 1/3 cup)
  • 100 ml sunflower oil (just less than half cup)

Thaw the Phylo dough (which comes in frozen packaging). This will take 2-5 hrs depending on the brand. Or you can thaw one in the fridge overnight.

On medium high, heat the olive oil in a saucepan.  Add the garlic and the onions, stirring frequently, and sauté until translucent, approximately 7-8 minutes. Add the ground lamb, using a wooden spoon to break down clumps. Cook 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chili pepper, cinnamon, thyme, parsley and salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and sunflower oil for about 30 seconds until well combined. Set aside.cake and borek 037

Grease a 9×13 oven-safe dish. Unwrap the Phylo dough. Using two sheets of dough per side, create flaps overhanging from each of the four sides of the dish. These flaps should hang over approximately 2-3 inches from the edge of the dish. The rest of the sheets will rest inside the dish.  Using a pastry brush, brush the sheets with 1/4 cup of the milk and egg mixture. Create another layer of dough using two sheets and brush with 1/8 cup of milk and egg mixture. Do this four more times. Then add another layer with two sheets and this time, cover the layer with approximately 60% of the lamb filling.

Create four more layers of dough using two sheets each and moisten with 1/8 cup of milk and egg mixture. Add another layer and cover it with rest of the meat mixture. Use up the remainder of the dough making layers of two sheets and brushing each layer with the milk and egg mixture.

When done, fold the overhanging flaps of Phylo on to the dish and pour the remaining milk and egg mixture on top. Using a paring knife, make a dozen small incisions on top, allowing juices to penetrate lower levels. If you run out of milk and egg mixture, just use more milk.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. During baking, the pastry may puff up. Do not intervene. Once the color turns golden brown, remove from oven and let it (and the puffing) rest 10-20 minutes. Like most lamb dishes, it tastes even better the next day.

Makes 20-25 servings (2-inch squares).

Here are the nutritional facts:


Yes, yes, people spell it in various ways but in Turkish, there is no baba ganoush… It is babagannush (well, s with a dot underneath… I am putting the h at the end to give the sh sound). Simple, straightforward. Now with the blasphemous invention of roasted eggplant in a jar (oh the horror… so salty but damn the gods, so easy and consistently smokey flavored. Seriously though, if using a jar, drain and rinse it prior to use).

This is a good, quick spread that you can serve on a cracker or pita. Make sure you are not overdoing the pita or chips… This is a great dish to serve as a side to chicken or beef as well… Totally doable without  any scooping. Don’t give in to the American thinking that “if it is scoopable, then it must be a spread.” It doesn’t have to be.



  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 1 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • A pinch of chili powder
  • A pinch of cumin
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Half bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Prick each eggplant a few times with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely soft; you should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance. Remove from oven and let cool. Split the eggplant and scrape out the pulp, draining any liquid.  Chop the pulp to break strings of eggplant but not until it’s totally mushy.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients until well mixed. Taste and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours before serving. Serve with crackers, sliced baguette, or toasted pita chips.

Storage: You can refrigerate Babagannușh for up to five days prior to serving.

Makes 8 servings.

Here are the nutritional facts:

Vegetable Musakka

If all vegetarian dishes tasted this good, I would not think twice about giving up chicken. That statement is a cop out and really annoying to some people but I mean it. This is a great dish. A bit high on the calorie count because of the frying of the eggplant plus the carb content but it is also well-balanced for protein. Even if you are skeptical, trust me and try this once and you will be hooked.

Note: I haven’t taken any pictures of this dish. Will remedy that next time I make it.

Vegetable Musakka (Vegetarian recipe)


  • 1 lb eggplant (one large, or two smaller), cut to 1/2 inch slices
  • 4 oz green lentils, 4 oz
  • 2 and 1/2 cup vegetable stock (preferably homemade, low or no salt version of off the shelf)
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 3 Tbsps olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 8 oz, oyster or crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 14-oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14-oz can, diced tomatoes,
  • 2 Tbsps tomato paste
  • 2 tsps Herbes de Provence
  • 1 and 1/4 cup non-fat yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cheddar, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a deep bowl water, soak the eggplants with salt for 30 minutes. Put a plate on top to help soaking.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, simmer the stock with lentils and bay leaf for 20 minutes. Drain.

Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Stir in lentils, mushrooms, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs and 3 tbsps of water. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Drain the eggplant slices and pat dry. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook the slices in batches for 3-4 minutes, turning once.

Arrange a layer of eggplants in the bottom of a 9×13 dish, then spoon a layer of lentil mixture on top. Continue layers until all eggplants are gone.

Beat the yogurt and eggs and pour over the layered veggies. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

Makes 8 very generous servings.

Here are the nutritional facts:

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