Tomato and Avocado Stack

A little taste of summer that I haven’t yet posted. This was one of my favorite dishes of the year! I ripped this recipe from a 2008 Cooking Light magazine and have stored it for ten years before trying it. That’s why, of course, I never through a huge stack of ripped magazines away, despite my inner turmoil about it.

Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Stack:

  • 1/3 c. low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 T. reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 T. reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 t. grated lime rind
  • 1/4 t. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/8 t. ground cumin
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • 4 medium heirloom tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup very thinly vertically sliced red onion
  • 1 cup diced peeled avocado (about 1 small)
  • Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)

To prepare dressing, combine first 9 ingredients in a small food processor or blender; process 30 seconds or until pureed, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Cover and chill.

To prepare salad, slice each tomato crosswise into 4 equal slices (about 1/2 inch thick). Place 1 tomato slice on each of 4 salad plates; sprinkle slices evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Top each serving with a few onion pieces and about 1 tablespoon avocado. Repeat layers 3 times, ending with avocado. Drizzle 2 tablespoons dressing over each serving; sprinkle with black pepper, if desired.

Candied Bacon Salad with Goat Cheese & Figs


I have such a backlog of recipes I’d like to post, so I’m plunging in today, but who knows when I’ll finish! I’m starting with a new summer favorite: this recipe is a wonderful riff on a Jamie Oliver salad from his book, Jamie’s America.  I still feel like this book is a new acquisition every time I open it, and I’m inspired every time, although I think I’ve owned it for at least six years now. At any rate, there’s plenty for me to still experiment with there.

As for the original recipe, I switched out the clementine slices and pomegranate seeds, which is what Oliver originally calls for, because I was so happy to find fresh figs at the market. So, here’s a little bit of a riff; I added the cheese to compliment the figs and also to lighten the appearance of the salad (which doesn’t have the prettiest appearance anyway, but the flavor is enough to make up for that).

I think we’ve made this salad three times this summer, and I hope to get another time or two in, but the figs may have already disappeared. I’ll have to switch to pomegranates next.

Candied Bacon Salad with Goat Cheese & Figs

For the dressing
6 T good-quality extra virgin olive oil
3 T white wine vinegar
1 heaped t mustard
1 heaped T natural yoghurt
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad
10 to 12 slices of smoked streaky bacon
1 clove garlic, peeled
3 slices of fresh white bread
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 heaped t sugar
10 fresh figs
2-4 oz. goat cheese
5 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves, washed and spun dry
A small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked

To make your dressing, put all the ingredients into a large serving bowl, whisk together, and season to taste. Put to one side.

Get a large frying pan on a medium heat, add the bacon slices and cook until lightly golden (but not really crispy), turning them every so often. Remove the bacon to a plate. Squash your garlic clove and add it to the pan, then turn the heat up a little and tear your bread into medium-sized chunks. Drop them into the pan so they suck up all the grease and become crispy. If your bacon didn’t release a lot of fat and you think the bread needs a little help to crisp up, simply add a lug or two of olive oil. Add a pinch of black pepper and shake the bread around until crispy and golden, then remove to the plate with your bacon.

Wipe the pan clean with kitchen paper, then put the bacon back in with the sugar or honey and the juice of 1 clementine (or a squirt of lemon juice). Stir everything around in the pan so the syrup starts to stick to the bacon. As soon as the bacon is perfectly caramelized and sticky, use tongs to carefully move them to an oiled plate and leave to cool down for a minute. This process is quite quick so keep your eye on it, so it doesn’t burn.

Whatever shape you leave the bacon in at this point is how it will set, so give the rashers a bend or a twist.

Slice your figs and crumble the goat cheese, if needed.

Grab your bowl of dressing and add your salad leaves. Add the figs, and mint leaves, then use your hands to toss and dress everything thoroughly. Lightly toss your croutons through the salad and lay your candied bacon on top. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top and sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the whole salad.

Pear, Fig & Onion Quiche

IMG_2328

It’s been such a busy month, I haven’t had a second to breathe! Finally, though, middle school, elementary school, and now preschool have started, and I’m back to teaching at the university as well. That doesn’t sound like things are going to get less hectic! However, at least now there’s more of an enforced bedtime around here, and a chance to sit and look over what I’ve been wanting to post.

This recipe was an easy favorite of the last few weeks. I made it for a shower of a dear friend; it sounded like the perfect shower food, and perhaps a little too indulgent for just a weeknight meal. The recipe comes from Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen cookbook, but he titles it Pear and Blue Cheese Quiche. The blue cheese flavor was soooo mild, though, that I hardly think we need to mention it in the title, since it will turn away all those who think they hate the stuff, when they probably won’t be aware that it’s in there if they try it. So, I’ve retitled, and also added figs, simply because I could get them, and I don’t know of anything prettier on the top of a festive summer food.

Pear, fig & onion Quiche

Crust
1 c. (140g) all-purpose flour
1/3 c. (55g) cornmeal
1/2 t. sea salt or kosher salt
8 T. (4 ounces/115g) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 large egg

Filling
1 T. olive oil
6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced (I used two small red onions, hence the name!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large, firm, ripe pear, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch (1.5cm) cubes
1 c. (130g) diced cooked (boiled) ham (or bacon, or omit for vegetarian)
1 1/2 c. (375ml) heavy cream or half-and-half
8 oz. (225g) cream cheese
Freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 c. (150g) crumbled blue cheese or Roquefort (or goat cheese)
2 T. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 T. fresh thyme (my addition)
2 fresh figs, sliced, for decoration (also my addition)

  1. To make the crust, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl, by hand with a pastry blender), combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Add the butter and beat on low speed until the butter is broken up and the mixture is sandy. Add the egg and mix until the dough begins to clump and come together. Use your hands to gather the dough and shape it into a disk. Wrap it in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes. (The dough can be made up to 2 days in advance.)
  2. Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s 14 inches (35cm) across. Wrap aluminum foil around the outside of a 9- to 10-inch (23 to 25cm) springform pan to catch any leaks, and then transfer the dough to the pan. Press the dough against the side, allowing it to come a bit more than halfway up the sides of the pan. If there are any cracks, patch them with a bit of dough from the edges—you don’t want the filling to leak out during baking. Chill the dough in the pan while you make the filling.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  4. To make the filling, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the shallots with some salt and pepper until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the diced pear and ham.
  5. In a large bowl, blend together the cream, cream cheese, a few gratings of nutmeg, the eggs, and the yolks until smooth. Stir in the blue cheese, the pear and ham mixture, and the parsley and thyme.
  6. Set the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet and pour in the filling, using a spoon to make sure the ingredients in the filling are evenly distributed. Please figs in a pattern on top, if using. Bake the tart for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is lightly browned, the filling still jiggles, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool until firm enough to slice, then serve warm or at room temperature.

    Pear Fig Quiche

Honeyed Apricot Flatbread with Rosemary

Apricot Flatbread 2

It’s truly summer. Lots of time away, running our five kids to swim, play, hike, visit cousins and squeezing in a vacation or two. So, I’m missing my normal kitchen time just a little. As part of my hopes to reconnect (with my kitchen), I started a sponge for ciabatta last night. Unfortunately, I was thinking about the timing today very well, and since we had a crazy day of violin lessons, meeting with middle school counselors, celebrating the birth of my cousin’s baby, and swimming, there was no chance for the ciabatta to become ciabatta. So, instead, I turned it into flatbreads to serve along with a fresh tomato soup, and then starting digging through the fridge for toppings. I did a couple with cheese and pepperoni for the kids, two with fresh figs and goat cheese, and then I tried something new, needing to use all the apricots on my counter (obviously, I just used a couple, but the rest are now happily stored in my freezer). I think I will do this one again, perhaps with plums or peaches next time. This idea is a riff from a memorable appetizer in Lisbon many years ago where I had the marriage of honey and rosemary and cheese for the first time. Still beloved!  So, here’s a little idea, if you need one, for a fun, and a little bit sweet, summer meal.

Honeyed Apricot Flatbread with Rosemary

pizza dough (any kind, but here’s my favorite)
1/2 c. ricotta cheese
4-5 fresh apricots (or peaches or plums), sliced in half and pitted
2 T. honey
a handful of rosemary

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, with a pizza stone, if you have one placed in the lower half of the oven.

After the pizza dough has had its final rise, shape it by stretching into a circle or oblong and place on parchment paper. Top with ricotta, dolloping it and then lightly spreading it. Then, place apricots on top, with the skins on the bottom. Drizzle honey over the entire flatbread, then sprinkle rosemary and a little bit of salt.

Using a pizza peel, place the flatbread on the pizza stone. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until browned on top and bottom. Remove to a rack to let it cool for at least ten minutes before serving.

Apricot Flatbread 1

Simple Slow Cooked Carnitas

Pork Carnitas with tortillas
I don’t love the slow cooker for many meals: it seems like meat that goes into this incredible invention somehow comes out tasting very similar to any other meat that goes into it. For texture and flavor, it often disappoints. So, I’m always a little wary of recipes for the slow cooker (I know, there’s millions of recipes that could potentially prove me wrong, but every time I go to try a new one, I feel like I’ve reached the same conclusion, again).

However, whenever I find a recipe that wants me to bake something at a low temperature in a dutch oven for several hours, I immediately just want to use a slow cooker instead. So, I pulled mine out while pulling together these pork carnitas yesterday, used some ideas and techniques from both Williams-Sonoma Taco Night and America’s Test Kitchen’s Slow Cooker Revolution, and came up with a recipe I will definitely use again. This would be another great taco for Cinco de Mayo, or any old Taco Tuesday, or any day of the week!


Simple Slow Cooked Carnitas

1-3 lb. pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
1 onion, thinly sliced, lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, skins removed and smashed
2 t. vegetable oil
2 oz. (60 g) achiote paste (essential ingredient! get from a Mexican market or AmazonPrime)
1/2 c. pineapple juice
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (only use if you want heat–my kids won’t eat it if I do! but the flavor is fantastic.)
salt and pepper

Prepare slow cooker by spraying it with nonstick oil (a tip from Beth Hensperger–it helps with clean-up).

Place sliced onion, smashed garlic, and oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Toss to coat, and then cover with plastic wrap and microwave at high for five minutes. (This initial cooking helps eliminate the raw flavor of the onions and garlic by quickly cooking them. If you would rather, you can also do this step by sautéing over medium heat.)

In another small bowl, combine the achiote paste, chipotle chiles, and pineapple juice. Whisk to combine, although some bits of paste will not mix entirely–this is fine!

Rub the entire pork shoulder generously with salt and pepper, then place in the slow cooker, at high heat. Add the onion mixture, and then pour the pineapple juice mixture over the onions and pork. Toss to combine, if needed, then place the lid on top and cook at high for four hours. Turn the heat down to low, and continue to cook at least 2 hours, or up to four.

Once the meet is finished cooking, shred it with two forks. If desired, place in a shallow dish and put under a hot broiler for 3-4 minutes, to blacken the tips of the meat (or in a hot frying pan for about the same amount of time). I just think it looks prettier this way!

Serve with pineapple-jicama salsa, corn tortillas, sour cream, and cilantro. Enjoy!

Cumin-Infused Black Beans

Black Beans

Fantastic photo by Melissa Gallup

These simple black beans are just delicious! They are the perfect backdrop to a taco or burrito, or on a southwest salad, or just a delicious side dish. In fact, we’ve had these three times in the past week, and I’m beginning to be a big believer in having some beans in the fridge at all times since they are the perfect thing when you’re incredibly hungry. I used these as well for my Cinco de Mayo menu.

As I came to write down the recipe, I realized that you will have to pardon the approximations below. I know I’ll have to do specific measurements next time I make these, but it’s just more fun to throw the seasonings in the pan! Also, did you know that you don’t need to presoak black beans? If you have a little time, just throw them in a pot with 1″ water covering them, add a bay leaf and a pinch of baking soda (it preserves their color a bit), bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour with a lid partially covering the pot. So much more efficient and cost-effective than canned (even though I sometimes still don’t get around to doing it!).

Also, note the maybe-unconventional suggestion of using the canning liquid from the canned beans. I took this idea from the book The Food Lab where the author suggests that using this liquid increases the flavor in your dishes exponentially (okay, maybe he didn’t exactly say “exponentially,” but something like that). I’ve been really pleased with the results, even though I am fully aware that this liquid looks a little like something we should not ingest. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea, feel free to use chicken broth or just water, but you may be as much of a fan of this idea as I am!

Cumin-Infused Black Beans

2 T. vegetable oil
1 onion, diced small
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 c. cooked black beans, either from dried (see note above and reserve 1 c. cooking liquid) or from 2 cans, with canning liquid
3 generous dashes oregano
2 dashes cumin
1 dash coriander
salt and black pepper to taste (but be generous with your salt! Depending on the beans you use, start with 1/2-1 t. but you may need more!)
1/2 c. cilantro, stems removed and chopped and juice for one lime, if desired, to finish

Heat a 2-3 quart pot over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, add the oil, wait for a minute, then add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until you can smell it, about 30 seconds, and then add the herbs, sautéing again for about 30 seconds.

Add the black beans to the pan, with the packing liquid if canned, or 1 c. cooking liquid (or water) if you cooked them from dried, and bring to a boil. Turn the pan down to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, to allow the flavors to meld, adding a little more water if necessary to give them a bit of a sauce. Serve with your favorite tacos, or just simply with rice or on top of some greens, chopping some cilantro and adding it to the top, along with a few squirts of lime, if desired.

Chili-Rubbed Shrimp Tacos

Shrimp Tacos

Beautiful photo by Melissa Gallup!

This simple taco recipe is the perfect weeknight meal. It comes together in minutes, and the flavor is fantastic! I loved prepping all the accompaniments and letting them shine against the shrimp. This recipe also comes from McMillan’s Taco Night, and is part of my Cinco de Mayo menu.

Chili-Rubbed Shrimp Tacos

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 corn tortillas, warmed

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with the canola oil, chili powder, and salt. Set aside.

Warm a grill pan or a nonstick frying pan over high heat. When the pan is very hot, add the shrimp and grill or sear, turning once, until bright pink and opaque throughout, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.

To assemble, fill the tortillas with the shrimp, dividing them evenly. Pile a few big pinches or a scoop of the Mexican slaw on each and serve right away, passing the pineapple-jicama salsa.

Sweet Potato with Thai Curry and Coconut

Sweet Potato with Thai Curry and Coconut
I made this recipe the other day because I had everything I needed for it, and because I really love Thai flavors. So happy I discovered it! The sweetness of the potato compliments the other ingredients in the soup, and I served it with sticky rice, and I wished I had made Jamie Oliver’s great chicken skewers, too. I will next time! This recipe comes from Joanne Chang’s
Flour, Too cookbook. One of my favorites!

Sweet Potato with Thai Curry and Coconut

5 large or 6 or 7 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
3 T. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/2 pieces
1/2 medium fennel bulb, leafy tops trimmed,
and bulb cut crosswise into pieces 1 in/.2.5 cm wide
6 cups/1.4 L Vegetable Stock (see below)
One 13 to 14 oz/390 to 420 ml can coconut milk
2 T. Thai red curry paste
2 1/4 t. kosher salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c/10 g fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
1/2 lime for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C, and place a rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Place the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet and pierce each one several times with a knife tip or fork. Roast for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until they can be easily pierced in the center with a fork. Set aside to cool. (I did this in the morning, to make things go faster at dinnertime.)
  3. In a stockpot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and fennel; reduce the heat to medium-low; and sweat the vegetables, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until they soften and the onion is translucent, but not browned.
  4. Peel the cooled sweet potatoes, cut them into large chunks, and add them to the vegetables in the stockpot. Add the stock, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes to blend the flavors.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the coconut milk, curry paste, salt, and pepper. Working in batches, blend the soup in the blender until very smooth. Return the soup to the pot and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each with the cilantro and a squeeze of lime before serving. The soup can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Roasted Squash Lasagna with Herbs

Summer Squash Lasagna
I found this recipe in my Sunset magazine last month (or so), and since my yellow squash plant is by far the most happy one in my garden this year, this recipe got used immediately. I then took thislasagna with me to a potluck gathering (it was a little on the fly–I had to use what I had in the house–another point for this recipe), and it turned out to be quite a crowd pleaser, so I’m happy to share it. I wish I could claim more responsibility for its invention, but my only contribution was throwing in cherry tomatoes (which are not in the original recipe), since I have a small tree of a tomato plant growing out of my southern window. This recipe is a delight. Perfect for this time of year.
Roasted Squash Lasagna with Herbs
3 1/2 lbs. green or yellow zucchini (10 medium), ends trimmed, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 3/4 t. kosher salt, divided
3 T. olive oil, divided
1/2 c. chopped shallot
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 c. raw corn kernels (from 2 or 3 ears corn) (frozen or canned would really be fine, too)
1 t. fresh thyme leaves
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese, divided
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided

1. Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with paper towels and arrange zucchini in a single layer on top. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 t. salt and set aside 30 minutes. (This is an important step if you don’t want a soupy lasagna in the end.)

2. Meanwhile, heat a grill to medium (350° to 450°). Heat 1 T. oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add corn and thyme and cook until corn is just hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in ricotta, half of parmesan, the egg, basil, chives, pepper, and remaining 1/4 t. salt.

3. Preheat oven to 375°. Press water out of zucchini with more paper towels and remove all paper towels from baking sheets. Brush zucchini all over with remaining 2 T. oil. Grill half of zucchini, turning once, until grill marks appear, 2 to 4 minutes; transfer to rimmed baking sheets as cooked. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

4. Butter bottom of a 9- by 13-in. baking dish with 1/2 T. butter. Arrange a quarter of zucchini ribbons crosswise in ­bottom of dish, overlapping slightly. Evenly spread a third of corn-ricotta mixture over zucchini. Sprinkle with a handful of tomatoes. Repeat process 2 more times, ending with zucchini. Sprinkle remaining parmesan on top and dot with remaining 1 T. butter.

5. Bake until lasagna turns golden brown, about 45 minutes, rotating dish halfway through for even browning. Let rest 20 minutes before serving.

Chicken Satay Skewers

Chicken Satay Skewers
So, just trying to find more quick dinners that are great. Here’s one that I found in Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes, though I only used the skewers from the full menu outlined there. But they are good and easy and fast, and I love that he doesn’t ask that the chicken be marinated, because I’m never on the ball enough to do that! I paired this chicken with sticky rice and peanut sauce and lemon-cucumber salad, soaking the rice first, then putting it on, then salting the cucumbers, then cooking the chicken, and finally the peanut sauce and some cut fruit. The recipe, of course, is Oliver’s language, not mine, but I love it.

Chicken Satay Skewers

Satay
½ a small bunch of fresh cilantro
1 fresh red chili
½ a clove of garlic
3 heaped tablespoons good-quality crunchy peanut butter
soy sauce
a 2″ piece of fresh ginger
2 limes

Chicken
4  skinless chicken breasts
runny honey, for drizzling

1.Turn the grill on to full whack. Lay 4 wooden skewers in a tray of cold water to soak (if they float, use a plate to weight them down). Put the standard blade attachment into the food processor.

2. Put the cilantro (stalks and all) into the food processor with the chili (stalk removed), peeled garlic, 3 heaped tablespoons of peanut butter and a lug of soy sauce. Peel and roughly chop the ginger and add. Finely grate in the zest of both limes, then squeeze in the juice from 1 of them. Add a couple of splashes of water and whiz to a spoonable paste. Season to taste. Spoon half into a nice bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, put the rest aside.

3. Line the chicken breasts up on a plastic board, alternating ends, and close together. Gently and carefully push the skewers through the breasts. Slice between the skewers to give you 4 kebabs. Thread any stray pieces on the ends of the skewers. To make the chicken crispier you can score it lightly on both sides. Scoop the rest of the satay mix from the processor into a roasting tray, add the chicken skewers and toss with your hands to coat, rubbing the flavor into the meat. Clear away the board and wash the knife and your hands. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season with salt. Put on the top shelf of the oven, under the grill, for about 8 to 10 minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through.

4. Turn the skewers over, drizzle with a little runny honey and put back under the grill for 8 to 10 minutes.

5. Take the chicken to the table with a bottle of soy sauce and a few wedges of lime for squeezing over.