Cooking the Books: Once Upon a Chef

This is a guest post from another Chuck, my Dad. This is his second post in the challenge. Here is the first.

If you want to join the Cooking the Books challenge, see the details at the bottom of this post.

The older I get it seems that my food preferences have changed. I have to admit, when I was younger my preference was burgers & pizza, meat & potatoes.

I grew up with a full-blooded Hungarian mother. Every evening it was a meat, potato, salad, and bread. According to my DNA profile it seems that I’m mostly European some British, some English and very little Mediterranean. I’m really not sure if this is accurate, but my love for Mediterranean food has increased tenfold over the past 5 to 7 years. 

When the hard questions come up at the end of the week, my wife asking me “What do you want for dinner?”, one of my two choices will either be gyros or Aladdin’s, our favorite local middle eastern restaurant. They make a really good dish called the Flavor Saver Special. The Flavor Saver Special consists of kofta, grilled chicken, a Middle Eastern chopped salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing, and a big dollop of hummus, all served with warm freshly baked pita. Delicious!

For this week’s entry in the challenge, I decided to make a similar meal at home for the first time: Kofta, tzatziki, Middle Eastern Chopped salad, and pita.

Today’s recipes come from Once Upon a Chef by Jennifer Segal.

Persian Kofta

  • Milk
  • Bread crumbs
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Lemon Zest
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Ground Beef (80/20)
  • Fresh mint
  • Gelatin

I was skeptical about the gelatin because it was kind of weird to add gelatin to a meat mixture (in my opinion). I’m not professional chef, but I just thought it was kind strange. I found out it actually does help the meat hold together.

When you press them together on skewers, I recommend using metal ones instead of wood or bamboo. Wooden skewers incinerated on my grill, even after soaking them in water.

When grilling, keep a close eye on them! They tend to flare up. I noticed that the gelatin actually caramelized, like a sugar mixture, on the outside of the meat.

Middle Eastern chopped salad with lemon vinaigrette


  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic
  • Sugar
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Bell pepper
  • Cucumber
  • Chickpeas
  • Scallions
  • Mint
  • Feta

The simple salad would go with just about any dish. There are many variations of the salad, depending on the country and cookbook, but the base is usually diced cucumbers and tomatoes. We used the vegetables that we had on hand. Along with cucumbers and tomatoes, we included red and yellow crisp bell peppers, fresh feta cheese, chickpeas and mint.

This meal is not complete without warm pita bread. Let’s make it!

My pita recipe comes from Baking with Steel, which I wrote about last week. The pita recipe is an easy one. It only has four ingredients.

Baking pita at home is easy and fun to do. I encourage you to have your children and family take part. Watching the pita pop up in the oven like a balloon is amazing.

Now the meal is complete!

As the BBQ Pit Boys would say:

“Were gonna be eat’n good tonight Martha!”

Join us!

If you want to join us in the Cooking the Books challenge, pick a cookbook you haven’t used in a while and make a recipe. Then fill out this form and I’ll guest post it here on Cook Like Chuck.

Let’s dust off those cookbooks and put them to use this year.

One thought on “Cooking the Books: Once Upon a Chef

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s