All Posts Tagged ‘Recipes

Post

sunday dinner: fall vegetable noodle casserole.

Leave a reply

Let me talk to you about how dinner used to come together in the Radeke household when I was a child. It was always quite the production, an all hands on deck situation. There were no fewer than three different cookbooks strewn about, and my dad would bounce back and forth between them excitedly, finding inspiration from every page. We were never a ‘follow the recipe to a tee’ kind of family, and often times what ended up on the table started as three (or four…or five…) different recipes. I mean, where’s the fun in playing by the rules, am I right?

Now that I’m all grown up and cooking for myself these days, I still find that I resort to my father’s technique of cobbling together different recipes to create one super recipe, and I’m usually the better for it (listen, I’m not batting 1000 here, there are definitely times this has not worked in my favor, but for the most part it ends well).

Take this fall vegetable noodle casserole for instance. This started as three recipes — one for broccoli noodle casserole, one for butternut squash mac and cheese, and one for a fall vegetable torte. I took bits and pieces from each one and smooshed ‘em together (technical term) to create the recipe below. This does take a little more than basic kitchen knowledge to pull off since you need to know what does and doesn’t go with what, and be able to adjust cooking times to ensure everything fits together nicely, but if you practice a few times, it’s not difficult to master.

It makes for a little fun, creative time in the kitchen and you’re left with a delicious, homey result that perfectly captures the flavors of Fall.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Fall Vegetable Noodle Casserole
Serves: 6

For the vegetables and pasta:
8 ounces curly pasta (fusilli, gemelli or rotini are all great options)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 small head broccoli, chopped into small florets
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 small bunch lacinato kale, de-stemmed and chopped

For the béchamel:
¾ cup milk
1 ½ cups reserved pasta cooking water
1 tablespoon flour
¼ teaspoon dried mustard
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
zest from 1 lemon
4 ounces fontina cheese, shredded
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the breadcrumb topping:
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup pecorino, shredded
juice from 1 lemon
drizzle of olive oil

Kitchen equipment: medium pot, baking or pie dish

First things first, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Cook the butternut squash and the pasta. Heat a medium pot of salted water on high until boiling. Add the butternut squash and cook for 7-9 minutes, until squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon, but do not toss the water. Let the water come to a boil again and then add the pasta and cook for approximately 10-12 minutes, until pasta is al dente (you want it a little underdone since it will finish cooking in the oven). Drain the pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water.

Make the béchamel. In the same pot you used to cook the squash and pasta, heat two teaspoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and fennel, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-4 minutes until the fennel is soft and fragrant. Next, add the flour, spices (mustard, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes) and olive oil. Stirring often, cooking for another 2-4 minutes until the flour is golden brown and the spices are toasted. Add the milk and the reserved pasta cooking water and let the sauce thicken, stirring occasionally another 2-4 minutes. Add the lemon zest and fontina, stirring until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is nice and thick, then season with salt and pepper. Finally, add the broccoli, butternut squash and kale and stir to incorporate. Remove from the heat and stir in the cooked pasta.

Prep the breadcrumb topping. In a small bowl, combine the panko and the pecorino, tossing to incorporate. Add in the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil and stir to evenly moisten.

Put it all together. Grab your baking dish and pour the pasta mixture into the dish, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and cook for approximately 12 minutes on the center rack of your oven. When the breadcrumbs are golden brown and the sauce is bubbling, remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Serve warm with a nice crisp glass of sauvignon blanc (or whatever wine suits your fancy) and relish in the cozy, warm flavors. It may have started as three different recipes, but it comes together as one perfect meal.

Enjoy! xx

Post

sunday dinner: chicken tortilla stew.

2 comments

It is officially one pot season, y’all. OK, I know that’s not an actual season, but it is a favorite time of year over here at Casa Radeke. I don’t know about other parts of the country, but the Northeast has gone full Fall practically overnight, and now all I want to eat are cozy things — soups and stews, casseroles, mac and cheese — basically anything warm and hearty.

Stew probably tops that list as my favorite one pot meal, not only because stews pack a wallop of flavor, but also because I love the cooking process. Having something bubbling away on the stove for hours just adds to the romance of the season, not to mention it makes my house smell insanely good.

This chicken tortilla stews checks all the right seasonal boxes — it’s an easy one pot meal, it’s hearty as all get out, and it packs a variety of delicious flavor, a mix of spice and earthiness and tang that just makes me happy when I eat it.

For my veggie-friendly readers, this is easily translated into a vegetarian meal — just nix the chicken and chorizo and switch out the chicken broth for some vegetable stock. You could also sub the chicken for some mushrooms and/or zucchini if you want to maintain the heartiness of the dish.

No matter how you make it, this one’s a keeper and should carry you through Fall as cozy as your favorite flannel.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Chicken Tortilla Stew
Serves: 6

You will need:
1 pound chicken breasts
3/4 pound chorizo sausage, broken into bite size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 medium onion, chopped
8 small red potatoes, diced
1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes
1 15-oz can black beans, drained
1 15-oz can kernel corn, drained
2 chipotle chiles, diced
1 quart chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For garnish:
1 sack corn tortilla chips
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 avocado, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
corn tortillas, warmed

Kitchen equipment: large soup pot, small saucepan

Poach the chicken. You could just sauté your chicken as you cook the stew, but I prefer to poach it first since poaching the chicken allows you to get that shredded chicken yumminess that takes this stew to another level. And it only adds about 15 minutes to your overall prep time.

To poach the chicken, place the chicken breasts in a small saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Add two of the smashed garlic cloves and a bay leaf if you have it. Add just enough water to the pan to cover the chicken, then set on high heat on the stove and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 8 minutes. At the 8-minute mark, check to see if the chicken is cooked all the way through; if so, pull ‘em out, if not, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Once the chicken is fully cooked, shred with two forks and set aside.

Start the stew. Preheat your large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and when hot, add the poached chicken. Lightly brown chicken for about two minutes, then add the other three garlic cloves and the chorizo. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes, breaking up the chorizo as it cooks.

Add the veggies. Add the onions and potatoes to the chicken-chorizo mixture and cook another 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, then stir in the tomatoes, beans, corn and chipotle chiles. Add the chicken stock and bring the stew to a boil.

Reduce and simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. The stew is ready when the potatoes are soft and the broth has a nice spicy tang to it.

Garnish and serve. Here’s where the fun begins. I like to set up a toppings bar with the chips, shredded cheese, avocado, cilantro and lime wedges, and let everyone go wild with the garnishing. If I’m doing it, I would ladle the stew into a shallow bowl, then top with a generous handful of crushed tortillas, a bit of shredded cheese, then a sprinkling of cilantro and the chopped avocado. Top with a squeeze of lime over the stew as a final garnish. Serve with warmed tortillas on the side to sop up the goodness.

This stew will warm you to your core and you’ll be impressed with how much flavor comes out of something that took less than an hour to make. The other great thing about this recipe is it makes A LOT of stew, so you’ll have plenty of leftovers to feed on over the next few days (or months, it also freezes incredibly well). Cozy to the max, all from one little pot. Enjoy!

Post

sunday dinner: pan-seared steak & farmers market salad.

1 comment

It’s September, guys. SEPTEMBER (where does the time go?!). And the whole world is all pumpkin spice lattés and knee-high boots over jeans and apple picking and pumpkin patches, but you know what? IT’S STILL SUMMER. It is. Don’t get me wrong, I love Fall like WHOA, but I’m going to make the most of every last golden hour of this gorgeous season. I’m going to shout it from the rooftops like a crazy person because it’s still 80 degrees and I wanna go to the beach not the corn maze. We’ll leave sweater weather for next week.

This week is all about good meat and great veggies. The true stars of summer. Let me talk to you about what your Sunday should look like.

First, make friends with your butcher. Get him to cut you a good piece of meat. A nice NY strip or a ribeye. One that’s not too thick, not too marbled, one that’s juuuuuuust right. He’ll know which one. Your butcher will not lead you astray.

Next, the farmers markets in the Northeast are still positively bursting with amazing vegetables these days, so go hang out in one for awhile. Pick up some of those insanely delicious tomatoes, a few of the greenest beans, and a variety of fresh herbs. Grab some beets if they have ‘em, otherwise make a quick trip to the grocery store to fill out your menu.

This is simple, good food, people. It doesn’t need much, and it is the BEST. The best. Just like Summer.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Pan-Seared Steak and Farmers’ Market Salad
Serves 2

You will need:

For the steak:
2 6-8oz steaks, strip steak or ribeye is best
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
1 small container cherry or grape tomatoes
4 small beets, trimmed of roots and stems
¼lb green beans
fresh feta cheese
a handful of each of the following: basil, mint, flat leaf parsley
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen equipment: cast iron pan, tin foil, baking sheet, tongs

This is the kind of dinner that produces gourmet taste with minimal effort. Literally the hardest thing you will do is chop vegetables. Promise.

Before you start anything, remove your steak from the fridge and set on a plate with a few paper towels. The goal is to allow your steak to come to room temperature, and the paper towels will soak up any excess moisture. The dryer the steak, the better the sear.

Roast the beets. You need to take care of your beets first as they will need the longest amount of time to cook. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub your beets clean and place on top of a piece of tin foil. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Fold the foil over the beets to form a little packet, leaving a little breathing room for the steam that will be produced during the cooking process. When the oven is up to temperature, roast your beets for 45 minutes until they are soft and a vibrant purple. When your beets have about 10 minutes left on their cooking time, place the cast iron pan on the bottom rack of the oven (more on this later). When you hit the 45-minute mark, remove the beets from the oven, cool slightly, then rub off the skin with a paper towel. Cool completely, slice in 1/4 inch slices and set aside.

Prep the salad veggies. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over high heat on the stove. Cut the ends off the beans and cut in half, then add the boiling water. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the hot water and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Chop the tomatoes and the fresh herbs and place in a large salad bowl, adding the beans and the sliced beets. Toss with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Just before serving add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a few good chunks of feta.

Cook the steak. Once the beets are out of the oven, turn the temperature up to 500 degrees, keeping the cast iron pan in the oven. When the oven reaches 500 degrees, remove the pan (VERY CAREFULLY) and place it on a burner on high heat. Let the pan continue to heat on the stove for another 5 minutes or so. This may seem extreme but the high heat in the pan is what is going to give you a good sear on your steak.

While your pan heats on the stove, drizzle your steak with a little olive oil and rub it into the meat. Generously season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper. Add your steak to the hot pan using your tongs and don’t move it for 30 seconds. You may want to turn on your kitchen fan as the steak is likely to smoke. After 30 seconds, flip the steak and cook another 30 seconds.

Next, carefully place your pan back in the hot oven and cook for two minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the steak, and cook for another two minutes (these times will produce a medium rare steak; adjust accordingly for your preferred temperature). Remove from the oven and place the cooked steak on a plate tented in foil to rest for about 10 minutes. By letting the steak rest, you allow it to reabsorb its delicious juices, which will boost the flavor and prevent a dry steak.

Once your steak has had it’s little power nap, slice it thinly against the grain and serve with a little steak sauce on the side. I made this one, and it’s delicious, but no judgment if your “homemade” steak sauce is A-1. No one will ever know.

Enjoy the simplicity of this meal — one that makes great use of a good piece of meat and the glory that is a late Summer farmers market. And enjoy the season, my friends, savor every last moment of this sweet, sweet Summer.

Post

meatless monday: spiced veggie tostadas with lime crema & salsa fresca.

Leave a reply

Can we talk about the phrase ‘meat substitute’ for a minute? A strange topic for a holiday Monday, I know, but I’d like to discuss. And what I’d like to discuss is how much I don’t like this phrase or the concept it describes. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you.

First of all, I personally don’t think that a proper ‘substitute’ for meat exists. And that’s not to say that meat is better than any other protein option out there, or that you should only eat meat, but I don’t think you can sub in a vegetable protein with the same result. Meat — whether you’re talking about beef or pork or any variety of poultry — has a specific flavor and texture that I don’t think is easily replicated. Never in my life have I been ‘tricked’ by a meat substitute to think that it’s actually meat. ‘Oh my! Is this a vegetable patty or a juicy steak? I just can’t tell!’ No. That’s never happened.

Second, and here’s the real kicker for me — vegetables are AWESOME. Like, I really really love them. So why do we need to relegate them to second class status? Why do they need to be a substitute for anything? I think they’re pretty amazing all on their own, so let’s celebrate that by cooking them in the way they should be cooked (which is to say, simply, and with little fanfare) instead of wasting our time inventing things like tofurkey (blech). OK, off my soapbox.

This recipe does exactly that — it celebrates vegetables the way they should be, with flavors that are layered and rich and full of umami. It’s a veggie party on a corn tortilla platter.

No meat necessary.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Spiced Veggie Tostadas with Lime Crema & Salsa Fresca (adapted from Blue Apron)
Serves 2

You will need:

Tostadas
1 medium eggplant
1 sweet bell pepper or 4-5 small sweet peppers
2 ears sweet corn
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
1 can refried beans (either pinto or black beans will do)
1 can diced jalapeños
4 corn tortillas
Mexican or cajun seasoning (or make your own with 1/2 teaspoon each of oregano, chile powder, cumin and garlic powder)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Lime Crema
1/4 cup sour cream (or Mexican crema if you can find it)
Juice of 1/4 lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salsa Fresca
1 medium tomato
1 avocado
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 lime
Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

Kitchen equipment: baking sheet, large saute pan, various sizes of mixing bowls

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees for your tortillas.

Prep your vegetables: While the oven is coming up to temperature, prep your veggies. First wash and slice your eggplant into 1/4 inch slices, discarding the ends. Cut off the stem ends of your peppers and remove the seeds and ribs. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Shuck the corn, removing any stray silk, then cut the corn off the cob with a sharp knife. Pit the avocado and chop roughly; place it in a bowl with the juice of 1 lime wedge. Core and rough chop the tomato and add it to the avocado. Thinly slice one half of the onion and finely chop the other and place the chopped half in a small bowl with the juice of 1/2 lime. Set aside. Wash and pat dry the cilantro, then rough chop until you have about a handful.

Whew! Anyone need a break?

I know, lots of prep work, but it will all be worth it in the end, I promise.

Bake the tortillas: Next, take your tortillas and place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Drizzle a little more oil on each tortilla, then flip them back and forth until both sides are thoroughly coated in oil. Bake for 6-8 minutes, then flip and back another 2 minutes, until tortillas are golden brown and crispy. Remove from the oven and immediately season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the lime crema: mix the sour cream with the lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the salsa fresca: Add the onion-lime mixture to the tomato-avocado mixture and toss to incorporate. Add the chopped cilantro, a little drizzle of olive oil, and another shake of salt and pepper. Mix it up and set aside.

Make the beans: Mix together the refried beans and the jalapeños in a small, microwave-safe bowl, then microwave on high for two minutes. Stir and set aside.

Cook the veggies: Combine the eggplant slices with a drizzle of olive oil, the mexican/cajun seasoning and a grind of salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Heat two teaspoons olive oil in your saute pan over medium-high heat, then add the seasoned eggplant in a single layer. Allow the eggplant to brown without touching them much, flipping after about 4 minutes. Brown the other side for another 3ish minutes, then remove from the pan and place on a plate with a paper towel.

In the same pan you used to cook your eggplant (don’t wipe it out, that leftover spice will be great on your veggies), add a touch more oil, then add the peppers and corn. Saute until the veggies are slightly soft and charred, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the plate with the eggplant.

Bring it all together: The finish line is in sight, folks! Hang in there for the delicious.

Take your baked tortillas, placing two on each plate. Spread a thin layer of beans on each tortilla, then top with a few slices of eggplant. Add a spoonful or two of the pepper-corn mixture, then drizzle with a little lime crema. Finish with a large spoonful of salsa fresca and a few extra leaves of cilantro. Serve with extra beans and veggies on the side.

I highly recommend a Mexican beer as the perfect pairing to this meal; the crisp bubbles of the beer bring out the rich spices of the veggies. These babies are far from a ‘meat substitute’, they are first class delicious.

Carnivores and herbivores unite! This one’s a keeper.

Post

sunday treat: grandma radeke’s zucchini bread.

Leave a reply

Let me tell you a little ditty about Thelma Radeke (aka Grandma). My father’s mother, Thelma was born in South Dakota in 1914, and at the young and fresh age of 20, she married my Grandfather and began her life in Iowa. They eventually settled in the tiny farming town of Clarence (population 961!), and my grandfather managed the local creamery, churning out award winning butter for all of Benton County. Butter is in my genes, people, and I am not mad about it.

Thelma was a tough lady and managed the family with an iron fist. Also, the woman could BAKE. Like good Lutheran, Iowa farmhouse family matriarch next level sh**. I was born on Thelma’s 66th birthday, so I like to think some of her baking magic passed down to me with that connection. I didn’t get to spend much time with her — she died when I was only six years old — but she did leave quite an impression on my family. I remember as a child, carefully fingering the delicate recipe cards in our family recipe binder — cards with tiny yellow flowers and perfect cursive script, full of her kitchen wisdom.

The legend of her dutch apple pie is known far and wide (it’s my father’s number one request come holiday time), but for me, it’s her zucchini bread that I cherish. It’s the first thing I remember baking (for my 4th grade bake sale) and it’s all I want when I’m craving some family comfort food. And now, good people of Plumber’s Daughter, I am sharing her magic with you.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Grandma Radeke’s Zucchini Bread

Makes 2 loaves (if you only need one loaf, just cut the recipe in half…but you’ll want to make two, promise)
You will need:

2½ cups zucchini, grated (about 2 medium-sized zucchini will do the trick)
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup apple sauce
3 eggs, beaten lightly
3 cups flour
½ white sugar
½ light brown sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Sanding sugar

Optional additions (optional but HIGHLY recommended):

1 cup pecans, chopped
½ cup mini chocolate chips

Kitchen equipment: two 8×4 bread pans, large mixing bowl, box grater

You know this is a recipe from the early twentieth century because there’s not a lot of fuss or precision to it. There’s no ‘ensure the temperature is exactly 54 degrees’ or ‘beat the eggs for exactly 3.42 minutes until just fluffed’ — it’s basically just ‘put everything all in one bowl and stir until it comes together’. Thank you, Iowa.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour both of your bread pans and set aside until you need them.

Wash and pat dry your zucchini and cut off one end. Grate the zucchini into a bowl using the largest holes on your box grater. Two medium zucchini should produce about 2 1/2 cups. Set aside and turn your attention to the other ingredients.

Put all of your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to incorporate. Add the oil, apple sauce and lightly beaten eggs and stir. At this point, you’ll be like, ‘Tina. I thought we were making bread? Shouldn’t this look like a nice smooth batter, not some weird zucchini cookie dough?’ Don’t fret, my dear baker friend. Add the shredded zucchini and watch the magic happen. Because zucchini has a TON of water in it, your cookie dough-ish mixture will transform into a beautiful batter as the zucchini mixes in with the other ingredients. It will be light and bouncy and batter-ific, just like Grandma Radeke made it.

Once your batter is completely incorporated, fold in the nuts and/or chocolate chips if you’re using them (and you should use them), and pour the batter into your buttered and floured bread pans. Top each pan with an even sprinkling of about one tablespoon of sanding sugar.

Bake for one hour until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

I can’t eat zucchini bread without cream cheese, and I suggest you follow suit. The slightly sour bite to cream cheese pairs perfectly with the rich, slightly sweet flavor of the zucchini bread, it’s pure heaven. Grandma Radeke knew what she was doing in the kitchen, and it shines in this simple recipe. So get your Iowa farm kitchen baking on, and make some zucchini bread for Thelma. Enjoy!

Post

sunday dinner: summer panzanella.

Leave a reply

I love a good salad. It’s crunchy and refreshing and healthy and comes together easily because no actual cooking is involved. But do you know what I love even more than a regular old salad? A regular old salad with carbs. Lots of ‘em. Take out the lettuce and replace it with bread. Why not? The Italians did it and the Italians know what’s up.

A traditional panzanella (or bread salad) is a simple combination of tomatoes and crusty bread with a little drizzle of vinegar and oil. It’s incredibly delicious and incredibly versatile — you can literally add anything you want and/or have in your fridge. I’ve fancied up my panzanella with the addition of fresh peaches, a little cured meat, and some buffalo mozzarella, and I’ve loaded on the fresh herbs for that extra kick. Summer’s finest, y’all.

Top with a little tangy vinaigrette and you’ve got a party. A party in a salad. A party in a salad with lots o’ good carbs. YUM.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Summer Panzanella (aka Italian Bread Salad)

You will need:

Salad
1 crusty baguette, torn into pieces (preferably day old bread but no worries if it’s fresh)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 peach, cut in half and sliced thin
½ log salami or other cured meat, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ ball of buffalo mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup arugula
8 leaves basil, torn
8 leaves mint, torn
Handful of Italian parsley (flat leaf), torn

Vinaigrette
¼ cup vinegar (red wine, white wine or apple cider vinegar are best)
¼ extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kitchen equipment: baking sheet, large salad or mixing bowl

A good panzanella needs an hour or two to sit so the vinaigrette has a chance to soak into the bread and work its magic, so make this a few hours ahead of time and set aside on the counter (don’t put it in the fridge; chilling the tomatoes will completely destroy their sweetness).

If your bread is day old, then all you really need to do tear it into bite-sizeish pieces and you’re good to go. If your bread is fresh, however, it needs a little prepping.

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread your torn bread pieces on a baking sheet, and toast on the top rack of your oven for 8-10 minutes until toasty but not too brown. Once toasted, remove from oven and add to your large salad bowl.

Slice your shallots into thin rings and add to a cup of cool water. Set aside to soak for about 10 minutes. This will cut the ‘onion-y bite’ that would otherwise overpower the other ingredients while still maintaining their crunch.

Chop the tomatoes, slice the peaches and the salami, and tear the mozzarella into small pieces. Add all ingredients to the mixing bowl with the bread. Wash and dry the arugula and add to the bowl.

Tear the basil, mint and parsley and add to the bowl (are you starting to see a theme here?).

To make the vinaigrette, combine the vinegar, mustard, honey and salt and pepper in a small bowl; then, whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a thin stream until completely incorporated.

Add the shallots to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss lightly. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to coat the ingredients thoroughly. Give it a dusting of salt and pepper and you’re good!

This salad is wonderful on its own (and by on its own I mean accompanied by a bottle of crisp rosé, obvi), but it’s also a great side dish to anything coming off the grill. I like to save a few pieces of toasted bread to add at the last minute so you have a nice mix of bread saturated with the dressing and bread that’s still crispy. Ever bite is a treat — herby and tangy and sweet summer tomato-y. DE. LISH.

Enjoy!

Post

sunday dinner: seared pork chops with peaches & basil.

Leave a reply

Tarzan & Jane. Anthony & Cleopatra. Kermit & Miss Piggy. Simon & Garfunkel. Pork chops & Peaches. Wait. What?

OK, maybe I’m reaching a little by adding pork chops and peaches to a list of history’s great pairings, but hey, I’m a believer (but NOT a Belieber). I’ve always been a big fan of meat and fruit together, but there’s just something about a juicy pork chop topped with equally juicy peaches that just sends me over the edge. A slight departure from the classic pork chop and apple pairing, but well worth the stone fruit upgrade. Simple, clean flavors that come together quickly, because who wants to slave away in the kitchen in the height of summer? With this tasty dish, you’ll be back out on the patio, glass of rosé in hand, in no time.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Seared Pork Chops with Peaches & Basil

For the Brine
3 cups water, divided
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bay leaf

For the Pork Chops
2 center-cut, 3/4 to 1 inch thick (boneless or bone-in, you decide)
Olive Oil
Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper

For the Peaches
2 large peaches, cut in quarters and pitted
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped

Kitchen equipment: shallow dish for brining chops, large cast iron or stainless steel pan (must be oven safe), tongs

First things first, brine your pork chops. Now, this is not a mandatory step (and this is definitely where my friend, Jaime, would say, ‘Tina, simple recipes do NOT include a step in which you brine pork chops!’) And she’d be right. But, come on, people. How hard is making a little bath for your meat if the end result is the juiciest, tastiest pork chop you’ve ever had? I say it’s well worth it, but if you can’t be bothered and/or you’re short on time, feel free to skip the brine.

If you’re completely bought into this journey, however, bring one cup water to a boil (I did this in a large mug in the microwave), then add your salt and other seasonings to the hot water. Stir to dissolve the salt, then pour into your shallow dish. Add the additional two cups of water to bring the brine to room temperature.

Add your chops to the brine, ensuring they are fully submerged (if not, you can add a bit more water until they are), then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to four hours.

Next, take your cast iron or stainless steel pan and place it on the center rack of your oven. Preheat the oven and the pan to 400 degrees. This genius little trick of preheating your pan will ensure that you get a nice, golden sear on the outside of your pork chop while still maintaining a nice juicy inside.

While your oven preheats, remove chops from their brine (or their packaging if you were all ‘screw your brine, Tina’) and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the chops on both sides with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Set aside until the oven comes to temperature.

Once the pan is fully preheated, remove from the oven (very carefully and with oven mitts) and place on the stove over medium-high heat. I would also recommend turning on a fan or opening a window, as your pork chops might smoke a bit when added to the pan.

Now, add your chops to the pan and sear for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t move them around during this step — the key to a good sear is to let them do their thing without interruption. Once the chops have a nice crust on one side, flip them with your tongs and remove from the heat.

Place your pan back in the oven to finish the cooking, which should take about six to ten minutes depending on the size and thickness of your chops. The internal temperature when done should be between 140 to 145 degrees, so start checking them after about six minutes (and every minute thereafter) until you reach the right temperature.

When fully cooked, remove from the oven and place the chops on a plate tented with foil. Pour any pan juices over the chops — these should NOT go to waste. The chops need to rest for about 5-10 minutes to soak up and retain all those good juices, and that’s the perfect amount of time for you to cook the peaches.

In the same pan you cooked the pork, heat on medium-high on the stove. Place the peaches cut side down and sear until browned, about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove and add to the plate with the pork chops.

Serve the chops with the seared peaches, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a garnish of the chopped basil. I sautéed some green beans with a little garlic and olive oil to go along side, and of course, my trusty summer sidekick, a glass (read: bottle) of crisp rosé.

Enjoy!

Post

sunday dinner: cacio e pepe (with a summer flair).

2 comments

The Romans, man. They are a good people. They know how to live. And eat. And drink. They’ve brought us game changing inventions like aqueducts, concrete and newspapers. And, you know, numerals.

But my favorite Roman invention? Cacio e Pepe. Say it with me, CA-CHEE-O EH PEH-PEH. Hands up emoji. The simplest of the simple, ‘cacio e pepe’ literally translates to ‘cheese and pepper’. And that’s really all it is. Pasta blended with butter and cheese and pepper that results in a rich, flavorful, incredibly simple dish that I dare you not to love instantly.

Add a little summertime flair (it’s TOMATO SEASON, y’all) and you’ve got yourself a game changer of a meal. Thanks, Romans. Grazie mille.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Summertime Cacio e Pepe
Serves: 2

6 ounces pasta (I used bucatini, but you could use spaghetti or linguini and achieve the same result)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan Reggiano
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino
1 small container cherry tomatoes
3-4 leaves basil, chopped in a chiffonade

Kitchen Equipment: large heavy-bottomed skillet or sauté pan, large pot, microplane or zester (for grating cheese), TONGS (I heart tongs)

I love this recipe. It’s so goddamn simple and the end product will just blow you away with incredible flavor. Like, how did so few ingredients pack such a wallop of awesome? Who knows? The Romans know, that’s who.

First things first, get your kitchen prepped so you have everything at your disposal when timing matters later. Using your microplane or zester, grate your cheese and set aside. By using this tool instead of a standard cheese grater, you are making it much easier for your cheese to become melty and saucy later, rather than the undesirable clumpy and oily, because you’re basically grating it in the smallest possible way. You’re making whispy cheese fluff, if you will. And I will. You can use a standard cheese grater if you don’t have a microplane (though I highly suggest you pick one up, it’s one of my favorite and most used kitchen tools), but make sure you use the smallest holes possible.

Wash and chop your tomatoes (if they’re small enough you can just cut them in half) and chiffonade the basil.

Next, take your big pot and fill it with about 3 quarts water and a good few shakes of sea salt (the best chefs will always tell you that pasta should be cooked in water that ‘tastes of the sea’…so salt it up, don’t be shy!). Heat on high until you achieve a rolling boil.

Add the pasta and cook about two minutes shy of the suggested cooking time (I would say about two to three minutes total cooking time for fresh pasta, about six minutes for dried). Don’t you fret, the pasta will finish cooking when we add it to the pan sauce later. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, in your large skillet or sauté pan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the pepper and swirl the pan around for about a minute to toast the pepper. Your butter should brown slightly but not burn.

Next, add the reserved pasta water and swirl the pan again to pick up all the nicely toasted pepper particles. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the liquid is bubbling nicely. Add the pasta and the rest of the butter.

Now. Here’s where the magic happens. Turn the heat down to low and using your tongs, toss your pasta in the pan sauce until evenly coated. Add the grated Grana Padano and toss quickly with the pasta using your tongs until the cheese melts into the pan sauce and starts to coat the pasta. This should take no more than 10-15 seconds.

Remove the pan from heat and add the grated Pecorino, tossing in a similar fashion as the Grana Padano. Really swirl the pasta around the pan to pick up all of the pepper and cheese sauce. If you’ve done it right, you should be left with a gorgeous, shiny cheese sauce that smoothly coats the pasta and is punctuated by lovely bits of toasted pepper.

Serve immediately in large bowls and top with the chopped tomatoes and basil.

The only accompaniment you need to this is a good glass of wine and a friend or loved one. And maybe a nice view and a summer breeze. But shouldn’t those accompany all of your summertime meals?

I think so. And the Romans do too.

Post

sunday dessert: blueberry basil lemon tart.

1 comment

I have a friend. Her name is Jaime. And one of my very favorite things about Jaime is that she can hang with my particular brand of weird. She never judges, she rarely questions, and she’s always willing to go along for the ride – whatever the ride may be.

Like this weekend, when I texted her, “I think I’m going to make a tart tomorrow. Do you want some?”

Any number of people would respond to a text like that with a side-eye emoji and lots of question marks, but Jaime took it in stride. “Tart night?” she said, “Absolutely!”

Thus, Tart Night was born. We roped in her husband, Doug, and her dear friend, Lexy, and made a plan. We took advantage of her glorious rooftop that came complete with killer views, a perfect evening breeze, and an ever-convenient BBQ. Jaime and Lexy ventured to Whole Foods (which is an entirely different, and completely hilarious, blog post) and returned with a bounty of fresh salmon, zucchini, and corn on the cob – and the real ticket, two bottles of rosé. (Whispering Angel, y’all — look into it). Tart Night was going to be GOOD.

So now I actually had to make the tart. Yikes. And since I couldn’t just make it easy on myself, I took approximately 14 different recipes and combined them into one. And then, there was draaaaaaama along the way! At one point, I feared that Tart Night would, in fact, be tart-less! But. I made it through.

And the tart was perfection. Tart Night was perfection. We laughed and drank and stuffed our faces with the deliciousness we had created, and I didn’t even fall off the roof when I stood on a chair precariously close to the railing to shoot a picture of the tart! (See picture below — and thank you to Jaime’s husband, Doug, my impromptu security detail, for watching my back)

It was amazing. It screamed of all of the best parts of summer, and I want to do it all again next weekend. Jaime, you down? Of course you are.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Blueberry Basil Lemon Tart

Serves: 8 (although one could argue that everyone needs their own pie, so maybe this serves one?)

You will need:

Graham Cracker Crust
12 full-size graham crackers
6 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup white sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Lemon Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
5 large egg yolks
1/3 plus ¼ cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Juice and zest from one lemon

Blueberry & Basil Topping
2 pints fresh blueberries
1½ teaspoons white sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice
6 leaves basil, chiffonaded (I don’t think that’s a word, but let’s go with it for now)

Kitchen equipment: rolling pin, 9” pie dish, lots of mixing bowls, wire whisk, baking sheet

I’m breaking this puppy down into three parts (plus a bonus fourth part). Each part is relatively quick in and of itself, but there’s lots of ‘cooling time’ in between, so it ends up being quite the process. This is advanced level baking folks, so sit down, strap in, and get ready for a long-ish/entertaining/fairly labor-intensive ride. OK.

Part I – Make the Pie Crust

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

If you need a little outlet for your frustrations from the week, making this graham cracker crust is a great exercise for you. First, take your graham crackers and break them up into smaller pieces. If you have one, throw them in a food processor and pulse until you have mostly fine crumbs. If you are lacking in the food processor area, toss the broken pieces in a sealable gallon plastic bag and crush the pieces into crumbs using your trusty rolling pin. Working through your anger with a rolling pin will produce perfectly smashed crumbs.

Once you have properly crushed crumbs, toss them in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the sugar and cinnamon. Mix until incorporated. Next, add the melted butter and stir to incorporate. You’re going for the texture of wet sand here – you should be able to make small clumps of graham cracker and they should stick. If the mixture is too dry, you can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until you achieve this consistency.

Once you have your crust mixture, evenly distribute in the bottom of your pie dish to form the crust. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes until golden brown and ‘dry looking’. Set aside to cool completely.

Part II – Make the Lemon Pastry Cream

OK, this is where things get tricky. I must confess that my first attempt at pastry cream did NOT go well, but thanks to some strategic googling and Mr. Emeril Lagasse (BAM!) it wasn’t a lost cause, so don’t lose faith, my friend. I will see you through the dark times.

The key to making this thing work is to have everything prepped and ready to go before you start the cooking process. Pastry cream requires your full attention, some serious arm strength (SO much whisking), and an extreme sense of urgency. This is not the time to take a loosy-goosy, lackadaisical, ‘I’m just gonna laze about in my caftan’ approach. This is more of a ‘using any shred of military precision I possess’ type of exercise.

First, put your egg yolks and ¼ cup sugar in a medium bowl and COMMENCE THE WHISKING. You want to whisk the eggs and sugar until they are a pale yellow and ‘ribbons’ of batter fall from your whisk when you raise it from the bowl. This will take 2-3 minutes by hand. Once you’ve achieved this state, whisk in the cornstarch until fully incorporated and set aside.

Now to the stove. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, 1/3 cup sugar and the pinch of salt and warm until just bubbling around the edges. Remove from the heat.

Next, you want to combine the milk and the egg mixture, but DO NOT for the love of all that is holy and good just dump one into the other. If you do, you’ll end up with sweetened scrambled eggs floating in warm milk. BLECH.

No, instead, you’re going to temper the egg mixture so your result is a beautiful custard not a beautiful disaster. Starting in tiny increments (like no more than a tablespoon at a time), add the warm milk to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Once you’ve added about ¼ cup of the milk to the eggs, you can add more at a time in a thin stream, again while whisking constantly. Do this until you’ve added all of the milk to the eggs, then pour the entire thing back into the saucepan.

Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat and whisk whisk whisk until the mixture starts to bubble. Keep on whiskin’ for another one to two minutes until the mixture thickens to the consistency of custard or pudding. Remove from heat and immediately add the vanilla extract, the butter and the lemon juice and zest; all the while continuing to whisk (I told you there’d be a lot of whisking).

Now, at this point, you may have a beautifully composed custard that is smooth and supple and shiny. You may also have a lumpy, separated mess. If you have the latter, DO NOT FRET. That is exactly what I ended up with and it all worked out for me in the end.

Transfer your pastry cream into a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic wrap down onto the custard itself. This prevents the custard from forming a really gross film on the top that will derail any hopes of a beautiful pie. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely, which should take 2-3 hours.

If you’re lucky enough to have achieved a perfect pastry cream, there are no additional steps for you (here’s your blue ribbon, you first class baker, you). If, however, your pastry cream was less than perfection, you’re not done yet. When the cream has cooled completely, take it out of the fridge and using either your trusty whisk or an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the cream like mad for 3-4 minutes. Somehow, like magic, it will come together beautifully and all will be right in the world. If it doesn’t come together, keep mixing until it does, and if it still doesn’t come together, you can add up to an additional cup of warm milk to the mixture in small increments until it does. If it still doesn’t come together, then I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe have a good cry and start all over.

Part III – Make the Blueberry Topping

You’re nearing the finish line, friend! Now comes the easiest part.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Spread one pint of blueberries on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar evenly over the top. Roast the blueberries for 10-12 minutes, pulling the tray from the oven and giving it a shake once about half way through the cooking time. The juices from the berries should be flowing freely but most of the berries should still be intact.

Remove from the oven and give ‘em a squeeze of lemon juice. Transfer to a small container and place in the refrigerator to cool.

Wash the other pint of blueberries but don’t do anything else to them. They are beautiful little spirits all on their own.

Chiffonade the basil (roll the leaves into a cigar-like fashion and slice them thinly) and set aside.

Part IV – Putting It All Together

You made it! HURRAH. Now let’s finish this bad boy and get to eatin’.

First, pour the pastry cream into the finished pie crust and spread evenly, being careful to not mix any stray crust crumbs into the cream.

Next, spread the roasted blueberry mixture on top of the pastry cream, leaving a slight edge so the pastry cream peeks through near the crust. This is purely for aesthetic reasons, but I like a little pop of yellow against the dark purpl-y blue of the berries.

Finally, spread the fresh blueberries over the roasted blueberries in a single layer, using enough that it’s well-covered but also leaving a few little spots for the roasted blueberries to poke through. Then, top the fresh blueberries with the basil.

Voila! You’ve arrived. If you’re making this for dessert with friends (which I did, highly recommend) do your best not to dive face first into this little ditty right away. If you made this just for you because YOU DESERVE IT, then get in there!

I’m not going to be coy or modest about this one – it’s bonkers good. Singing from the rooftops good. Dancing a jig in your kitchen good. Making bad decisions because you drank too much tequila good.

Did it take the whole afternoon to make? Yes, likely. Was it worth it? Ooooooooh boy, that it was.

Enjoy!

'Behind the Scenes' of Tart Night aka Doug making sure I didn't fall off the roof in an effort to get the perfect shot.

‘Behind the Scenes’ of Tart Night aka Doug making sure I didn’t fall off the roof in an effort to get the perfect shot.

Post

sunday snack: avocado toast, plain & simple.

Leave a reply

I had a realization today. As realizations go, it wasn’t groundbreaking or particularly unique, but it stuck with me. Popping up every once in awhile in the quieter moments of the day. A day filled with celebration. Watching a friend about to take a big leap with her love, surrounded by family and laughter and joy.

You know what I’m talking about though, right? One of those thoughts that comes straight out of your gut and kind of smacks you across the face. It was the universe telling me, ‘Wake up! Look around! Notice things!’ And that realization? That I am surrounded by truly good people in my life. Good down to their bones — caring and funny and smart and genuine. Complicated and brave and hopeful and doing their best to figure it all out one day at a time.

With all the shit we go through every day of our lives, knowing that I have such good people around me is powerful. Maybe I’m extra sentimental these days due to things happening in my personal life (things I’m not even close to being ready to put pen to paper on), but this was an incredibly comforting thought. It felt good to put it all together. It was uplifting.

What this has to do with avocado toast, who the hell knows. But as I sit here enjoying this simple, delicious snack, I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such goodness. I am thankful for that. I aspire to be just as good for and to the people in my life.

And that’s all I got for this stormy Sunday (oh hello, flash flood warning).

So to all of the people in my life — you know who you are — thank you. Thank. You. You’re making this journey a whole lot easier (and immensely more enjoyable).

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

OG Avocado Toast

You will need:

1 avocado
Whole grain bread
1 lemon
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is the simplest of the simple. I wouldn’t even call it a recipe — it’s more of a ‘gathering of ingredients’. And it should take approximately four and a half minutes for it to come together.

First things first, drizzle a little olive oil on your bread and hit each slice with a touch of salt and pepper. Turn on the broiler in your oven and toast your bread on a cookie sheet (or directly on the oven rack) for a few minutes, watching closely so it doesn’t burn.

Once you have some nicely browned toast, scoop the avocado out of its shell into a bowl and add a small drizzle of olive oil (about a tablespoon). If you want your toast to be extra lemony, you can add a squeeze of juice to your avocado/oil mixture, but this will make the consistency more guacamole-like, which I don’t love. Whatever, you do you. This is your toast.

Mix the avocado lightly, then mash onto the toast. Top with a bit more salt and pepper, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and as many pepper flakes as your palate can handle. Enjoy immediately.

If you want to spice things up a bit (and invest a little more time), you can make the above and flourish with any of the following combos:

  • Tomato + Basil + Balsamic Vinegar
  • Poached Egg + Hot Sauce
  • Bacon + Goat Cheese
  • Feta + Black Pepper + Kalamata Olives
  • Cucumber + Pea Sprouts
  • Grilled/Roasted Corn + Queso Fresco + Lime + Smoked Paprika

Enjoy!