Chicken-Spinach Burgers with Feta & Tzatziki

These Greek-inspired chicken burgers were juicy and flavor-packed. They were relatively healthy too! We ate them on Memorial Day with corn and potato salad on the side. Delicious.

This recipe was loosely adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sue Li. I used freshly ground chicken thighs, added feta, and modified the proportions and method. The original recipe notes that in order to keep the burgers moist, it is important that the meat isn’t packed too tightly. I think that the exorbitant amount of spinach also kept the burgers moist.

Yield: 7 to 8 burgers

For the Burgers:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (can substitute ground turkey)
  • 4 cups baby spinach, long and/or thick stems removed, chiffonade
  • 4 large or 6 small scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, finely grated, or pushed through a garlic press
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 5-6 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 T panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil and/or cooking oil spray, for grill
  • 8 potato rolls, split, lightly toasted (if desired), for serving
  • sliced red onion, tomato, and/or avocado, for topping, as desired
  • tzatziki sauce, for topping (see below)

For the Tzatziki:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dash cumin
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup grated English cucumber, squeezed dry (I used the small holes of a box grater)
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used the juice of half of a Meyer lemon)
  • fresh dill or parsley, minced, to taste

To Make the Burger Patties:

  1. Using a meat grinder fitted with the medium disc, grind 1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. (Alternatively use 1 1/2 pounds of pre-ground chicken or turkey.) Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cut spinach, scallions, garlic, crumbled feta, cumin, salt, pepper, egg and panko. Using a fork, mix to combine.
  3. Add the ground meat; mix gently with a fork until just combined.
  4. Form into 7 to 8 patties, about 1/2-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the sauce.

To Make the Tzatziki:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients with a large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Refrigerate so that the flavors can develop while the burgers are cooked.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as desired. Additional lemon juice can also be added.

To Finish & Serve:

  1. Coat the grill grates with vegetable oil and preheat on medium to medium-high heat.
  2. Remove the meat from the refrigerator to bring the burger patties to room temperature. To prevent sticking, coat the burgers with vegetable oil or vegetable oil spray.
  3. Cook the burgers until lightly browned on both sides and until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 5 minutes per side.
  4. Serve the patties on rolls topped with tzatziki and sliced red onions, tomatoes, and/or avocado, as desired.

Note: Burger patties can be formed 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

One-Pot Coconut Chicken Rice

This one pot dish was creamy, flavorful and absolutely delicious. The spices had a great balance with the richness of the coconut milk. I served it with roasted asparagus on the side. It was a perfect springtime dinner.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Shayma Owaise Saadat. I modified the proportions and method. I also swapped spinach for the kale. I increased the amount of leafy greens but would add even more next time! The original recipe notes that canned chickpeas can be substituted for the chicken to make a vegetarian version.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups white basmati rice
  • 2 T grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 2 medium or 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 9)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 13.5-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 6 to 8 cups of thinly sliced spinach or 4 cups Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise into strips
  • store-bought sliced pickled red chiles, for serving, optional
  • lime wedges, for serving, optional
  1. Place rice in fine mesh sieve set inside a medium bowl; pour in cold water to cover.
  2. Agitate rice with your hands until water is cloudy. Drain and repeat until water is almost clear (about 3 to 5 times). Drain.
  3. Pour in water to cover rice by 2 inches; let soak 30–45 minutes.
  4. Heat oil in a large heavy pot with a wide base over medium-high. (I used an enameled cast iron pot.)
  5. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 1 minute.
  6. Using paper towels, pat the chicken dry.
  7. Add chicken, turmeric, cayenne, and 2 teaspoons of salt to the shallots and garlic. Cook, turning and moving around chicken thighs as needed, until chicken begins to turn opaque, about 2 minutes.
  8. Pour in 3/4 cup water and bring to a simmer.
  9. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, turning chicken once, until chicken is cooked through and very tender, about 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the lid of the pot and wrap it with a kitchen towel, securing the corners up and over the top of the lid with a rubber band.
  11. Drain the rice and add to pot with chicken, then add coconut milk and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil.
  12. Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook, undisturbed, 15 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat. Remove towel and lid. Remove towel from the lid.
  14. Arrange spinach (or kale) in an even layer over chicken and rice and cover with lid. Let sit until wilted, about 10 minutes.
  15. Top with chiles, if using. Serve with lime wedges.

Spinach Manicotti

I have shared my love for manicotti in the past– stemming from wonderful memories of enjoying it with my college roommate’s large Italian family on Easter Sunday.

I have made many versions of spinach manicotti, usually filling store-bought manicotti noodles. Using no-boil lasagna noodles instead was a great “less-hassle” shortcut. They were also chosen to mimic the texture of fresh pasta. It was absolutely true! I will never buy manicotti noodles again. 😉

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. I replaced one cup of ricotta cheese with an equivalent amount of chopped, steamed spinach seasoned with freshly grated nutmeg. I also used whole milk ricotta instead of part-skim, part-skim mozzarella instead of whole milk mozzarella, coarse salt instead of table salt, and modified the method. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, optional
  • coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

For the Filling & Pasta:

  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese (can substitute part-skim ricotta)
  • 4 ounces (about 2 cups) grated Parmesan cheese, divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese (I used part-skim mozzarella)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Trader Joe’s)
  1. Steam the baby spinach until wilted. (I did this on the stove top.)
  2. Let the spinach cool slightly, then use a potato ricer to remove excess liquid. Coarsely chop. (You should have about 1 cup.) Season with salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. Make the Sauce: Pulse 1 can tomatoes with their juice in food processor until coarsely chopped, 3 or 4 pulses. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining can tomatoes.
  5. Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in basil; adjust seasoning with salt. Set aside.
  8. Make the Filling: Combine the chopped spinach, ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs in medium bowl; set aside.
  9. To Assemble: Pour 1 inch boiling water into 13 by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. (I used a pyrex dish.) Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 to 6 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking.
  10. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels. Do not use paper towels because the noodles may stick. (I used flour sack towels.)
  11. If using the same dish to bake the manicotti, drain the water and dry the dish. (I used a ceramic baking dish to bake the manicotti instead of using the pyrex dish.)
  12. Place the preferred baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce.
  13. Using a large cookie scoop or a soup spoon, spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the spinach-cheese filling mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed.
  14. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down.
  15. Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta is completely covered. (It seems like a lot of liquid but it’s necessary for the no-boil noodles to cook properly.)
  16. To Bake: Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil.
  17. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element).
  18. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Return to the oven on the adjusted oven rack; bake for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
  19. Set the oven to broil.
  20. Broil until cheese is lightly brown or spotty brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve.

Note: The manicotti can be prepared through step 15, covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (If frozen, thaw the manicotti in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.) To bake, remove the parchment, replace the aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Vegetarian Skillet Stuffed Shells

This one-pan, stovetop recipe turns cheesy stuffed pasta into a weeknight dinner. It was a perfect crowd-pleasing dish to serve on a chilly evening. Jarred marinara is used as a shortcut- enhanced with buttery sautéed garlic and red pepper flakes. Great.

This recipe was adapted from epicurious.com, contributed by Anna Stockwell. I modified the proportions and method, and used dried oregano. I recommend eating it with crusty bread or garlic bread to mop up the sauce.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 20 jumbo pasta shells (about 6 to 6.5 oz)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 to 10 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth (I used Pinot Grigio)
  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 6 to 9 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 24 to 28 oz jarred marinara sauce (I used 28 oz Rao’s Marinara)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups (15 to 16 oz) whole-milk ricotta
  • 3 oz finely grated Parmesan (about 1 cup), plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano
  • fresh parsley or oregano, chopped, for garnish, optional
  • crusty bread or garlic bread for serving, optional
  1. Cook shells in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 9 minutes; drain. Run under cold water to stop the cooking; drain again. (I cooked 22 shells just to be safe but only used 20.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium-high. (I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they release juices, then are dry again and nicely browned, 5–10 minutes; season with black pepper and 1/2 tsp salt.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, add wine, and cook, stirring, until reduced by half, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  5. Add spinach, stir, cover, and cook until beginning to wilt, 1–2 minutes.
  6. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is completely wilted and most of the liquid is evaporated, 2–4 minutes more. Transfer mushroom mixture to a large bowl; reserve skillet.
  7. Add ricotta, Parmesan, 2 T fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt to mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste.
  8. Spoon about 2 T ricotta mixture into each shell. The shell should be filled to capacity but not overstuffed. (I used a cookie scoop to ration the filling.)
  9. Cook garlic and butter in reserved skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, 2–3 minutes.
  10. Add marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, 6–8 minutes.
  11. Nestle stuffed shells into hot sauce in skillet.
  12. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until shells are warmed through, 5–6 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
  14. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley or oregano. Serve with crusty bread or garlic bread, as desired.

Vegetable Baked Rice with White Beans & Leeks

Baked rice is quick and easy to prepare and is really delicious. This baked rice dish was inspired by prasorizo, the classic Greek rice-and-leek dish. It makes a great vegetarian main dish or a phenomenal side. We ate it as a main dish with rotisserie chicken on the side. 😉 The freshly grated Parmesan really added richness to the meal.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. Almost any vegetable can be incorporated into the dish.  I added my beautiful CSA Romanesco cauliflower (with its greens) as well as baby spinach. The original recipe suggests alternatively adding tomatoes, zucchini, and/or broccoli with the leeks, or arugula and/or sliced sugar snap peas after the dish is removed from the oven.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 to 5 leeks (about 2 pounds), trimmed, white and pale green parts, cut lengthwise & sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 lemon
  • chopped tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli florets, and/or cauliflower florets, optional (I used Romanesco cauliflower florets)
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds (I used raw slivered almonds), or more, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked white basmati rice
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white beans (such as cannellini or great Northern), drained and rinsed
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water or stock
  • coarsely chopped spinach and/or arugula, or sliced sugar snap peas (I used 2 cups chopped baby spinach)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced or chopped basil, chives, mint or fennel fronds, plus more for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Soak sliced leeks in a bowl of water, remove with a slotted spoon or spider, then shake or pat dry.
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, peel 1-inch-thick strips of lemon zest, then cut the lemon in half. Cut one half into four wedges and reserve the other half.
  4. In a 9-by-13-inch baking pan, combine the leeks, lemon zest strips, almonds, red-pepper flakes and olive oil. (I used an enameled cast iron baking dish.)
  5. If adding chopped tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, and/or cauliflower, add to the pan with the leeks. (I added Romanesco cauliflower florets.)
  6. Season generously with salt and pepper, and arrange in an even layer. Roast until the leeks start to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
  7. Remove and finely chop the lemon zest strips, then stir the zest back into the leek mixture. Arrange in an even layer.
  8. Sprinkle the rice evenly over the leeks, then top with the beans and 1 teaspoon salt.
  9. Add the boiling water or stock, then seal the pan tightly with foil.
  10. Bake until the rice is tender, 20 to 22 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven, and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  12. If adding spinach and/or arugula, or sliced sugar snap peas, add them in at this time. (I added the Romanesco cauliflower greens, ribs removed and finely sliced, as well as 2 cups of baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped.)
  13. Squeeze the lemon half over the rice, then stir in Parmesan and herbs.
  14. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  15. Serve with lemon wedges, and more Parmesan and herbs, as desired.

Baked Rigatoni with Cheddar & Broccoli Rabe

I love a cheesy baked pasta loaded with greens. 🙂 This one was bursting with broccoli rabe (of which I am a huge fan) but it could have easily incorporated broccoli, baby broccolini, or other greens such as collards, spinach, and/or kale instead. We ate it with garlic bread and green salad. Great.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Alison Roman. I was a little bit concerned about the spice level after adding an entire teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, but the finished result was perfect. I baked the casserole in a Dutch oven and the cheesy bread crumb topping formed an incredible crispy crust over the entire top. I may consider adding garlic next time, but it was amazing without it!

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 lb rigatoni, ziti, or fusilli
  • 8 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
  • minced garlic, optional
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe or 3 bunches baby broccolini, trimmed, coarsely chopped (I cut the stems into 2-inch pieces and the leaves into 3-inch pieces)(see alternate green vegetable alternatives above)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 oz sharp white cheddar, coarsely grated (about 3 cups), divided (I used 10 oz extra-sharp white cheddar and 2 oz white Beecher’s Flagship Handmade Cheese)
  • 1 bunch chives, chopped, divided (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs or panko (I used a blend of the two)
  1. Preheat oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add a generous amount of salt. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking together, until just barely al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  4. Add leeks and season with salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are softened (but not so much that they don’t have any texture left) and starting to brown, 5–10 minutes.
  5. Add red pepper flakes and garlic, if using, to leeks and stir to incorporate.
  6. Add broccoli rabe by the handful, stirring to combine and allowing each addition to wilt before adding more.
  7. Season with salt and black pepper.
  8. Once all of the broccoli rabe has been added, cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green and wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat and set aside.
  9. Add pasta to reserved broccoli rabe mixture along with cream, three-quarters of the cheese, 2/3 of the chopped chives, and reserved pasta cooking liquid; mix well. Season with salt and black pepper and add more red pepper flakes if you prefer more heat (keep in mind that the saltiness and spiciness will increase as the pasta bakes).(I didn’t add any additional heat.)
  10. Transfer pasta to a 3-qt. baking dish (or, if your Dutch oven is ovenproof, just leave it in there). (I scraped down the sides of my Dutch oven and kept the mixture in it to bake- less dishes!)
  11. Toss breadcrumbs and remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium bowl until coated; season with salt and black pepper.
  12. Scatter breadcrumbs over pasta, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
  13. Bake until pasta is bubbling across the entire surface and breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, 22 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  14. Scatter remaining chives over pasta just before serving.

One-Pan Orzo with Spinach & Feta

This is another weeknight dish loaded with spinach. I also incorporated my CSA turnip greens. It features many of the flavors of my favorite Greek dishes, including lemon zest, feta, and fresh herbs. I used parsley from my CSA share as well.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. It was very quick and easy to prepare. I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pot. I increased the amount of garlic and modified the cooking method.

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced, divided
  • 2 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces baby spinach leaves (8 cups), coarsely chopped (I used 6oz spinach and 2oz turnip greens)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta (3 ounces), plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 cup fresh dill, or use parsley or cilantro, chopped
  1. Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium, then melt butter, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (I used a large and wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Stir in about three-quarters of the scallions (saving some of the green parts for garnish) and garlic, and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in stock and bring to a simmer.
  4. Stir in orzo, lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until orzo is nearly cooked through and most of the liquid is absorbed, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.
  5. Stir in spinach (and other greens, if using), adding in batches if it doesn’t all fit in the pan at once, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in cheese, peas, and dill/parsley/cilantro, cover the pan, and cook for another 1 minute, to finish cooking and warm the peas.
  7. To serve, sprinkle with more cheese and the reserved scallions.

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