May 18, 2018

Elotes-Inspired Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole


1 medium-large cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons Tajín Clásico Seasoning
1/3-1/2 cup grated cotija
1/3-1/2 cup shredded queso quesadilla
1 bunch scallions or green onion, diced
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs (I used breadcrumbs from a loaf of cheese bread but any would work)


Steam cauliflower until just barely fork-tender. Cool completely. (this can be done up to one day ahead)

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the cooled cauliflower in a medium-sized bowl. Add the sour cream, Tajín, cheese, and scallion. Stir until evenly distributed. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking pan and pour the mixture in the pan. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

My thoughts:
I had an entirely different idea as to what I was doing with this cauliflower but the gouda I was planning on using was unexpectedly moldy so I had to switch gears. I didn't really grow up eating casseroles but as an adult, I've found I really enjoy vegetable casseroles in particular. Some of the meat and potato ones I've seen are still a little daunting but for veggies, they are a great, easy way to serve vegetables that seems special but really requires little effort.

I always have chile-lime Tajín in the cabinet and I had two kinds of Mexican cheese I had picked up for another recipe and I quickly came up with this casserole inspired by the flavors of one of my favorite summer dishes: elotes, Mexican street corn. Tajín is traditionally used sprinkled over fruit but I've come to love the mixture in savory dishes as well. I was really pleased with how it turned out. The quesadilla cheese, of course, melts beautifully and held the mixture together and the cotija has so much sharp, savory flavor it really jazzes up cauliflower which, while I love it, can be bland. The toasty breadcrumbs added a lot of texture interest. It really looks like a standard creamy casserole but once you take a bite, you realize how fresh and full of flavor it is.
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May 16, 2018

Sriracha Ranch Spinach Potato Salad


1 1/2 lb baby potatoes (left whole if very small or halved)
4 oz fresh baby spinach, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 tablespoon Sriracha seasoning*
2 tablespoons homemade buttermilk Ranch mix
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the potatoes and cook until nearly-fork tender. Add the spinach and stir. Cook until the spinach is wilted and the potatoes are tender. Drain. Place in a  medium bowl and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the Sriracha seasoning, Ranch mix, mayonnaise and vinegar until a smooth dressing forms.

Add the celery and onions to the potatoes and stir to evenly distribute. Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir to coat. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 24 hours.  Garnish with parsley if desired.

*Not Sriracha sauce, this is a dry spice mixture. I buy it at the regular grocery store (McCormick and Spice Island both have versions) but I see a lot of versions available on Amazon. Just make sure it is fine spice mixture, not a chunky rub.

My thoughts:
I actually made this back in the winter when I was so over cold weather I made a bunch of picnic-y type foods. I liked how it turned out so I saved the recipe up until it was more weather appropriate to share. The sriracha and ranch seasonings pack a lot of flavor into the dressing relatively little effort. No one likes bland potato salad. I know some people are funny about adding extra vegetables but the spinach doesn't affect the texture much but adds some color and makes it just a little healthier. You could leave it out if you are adverse. I'm too lazy to make two side dishes so it works for me.

This would be a great addition to a cookout or picnic or even packed for lunch, it goes with pretty much anything!

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May 10, 2018

Chicken Koftas with Za'atar, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Feta


1 lb ground chicken
1 1/2 tablespoons za'atar
1/2 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dry, not packed in oil)
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

serving suggestions:
small flatbread/pita, warmed
sliced red onion
sliced cucumber
zhug sauce*


Mix together all of the kofta ingredients until well combined. Form into 6 small flat patties. Heat a fair amount of canola oil in a large skillet, cook the koftas until cooked through, flipping once, about 5-8 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel-lined plates.

*Trader Joe's has a version they call zhoung sauce or make your own!
My thoughts:
I recently came across an article asking whatever happened to sun-dried tomatoes which was a bit silly, in which chefs confessed to still liking them and even renaming them to make them more palatable to diners on menus. While I admit, they are a bit past when they were the new and exciting ingredient (we had them on pesto pizza the year we did the '80s for NYE) I would argue they are even more popular today because I can find them in more places and in more varieties than I could even ten years ago. I know this because finding them for that pesto pizza was oddly difficult but every regional and national chain in the area has them packed in oil and one or two varieties of "dry" sun-dried tomatoes packed in nothing but air and plastic. I try to keep a bag in my fridge for whenever I need a bit of concentrated tomato flavor. Tomato season is so short and it's nice to have that flavor for more than a couple of months a year.

I decided to make these koftas with another '80s fave, feta, use chicken instead of beef (yet another '80s touch) and update it with the trendy yet not new spice du jour: za'atar. What can I say? I'm a renegade. You could serve these as burgers or sliders but I kept them small and served them as part of a sort snack plate with leftover zhug drizzled on, and some hummus and pita. It really is a good alternative to full sit-down dinner--it had one fresh, hot element but I prepared everything else ahead of time so it only took about 20 minutes to get dinner on the table.

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May 07, 2018

Cincinnati Chili-Inspired Sloppy Joes

1 1/4 lb ground beef
28 oz canned crushed tomato
14 oz canned dark red kidney beans, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

To serve:
seeded, sturdy rolls
shredded cheddar
chopped raw onion


In a large skillet saute onion, garlic, ground beef, and chili powder until ground beef is slightly browned. Drain off any excess fat. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally or until most of the liquid is absorbed or evaporated but the mixture is still a little runny. Ladle on to rolls, top with onion and cheese.

My thoughts:
I always enjoy Cincinnati Chili. I know it is one of the more controversial chilis out there since it basically an unusually flavored meat sauce and served on spaghetti but it is oddly satisfying. I've made a few versions over the years- traditional Cincinnati Chili, a slow cooker version that is great for weeknights (just ladle it over some hot spaghetti and top with the traditional kidney beans, onion, cheese and serve) then I got creative and made Cincinnati Chili Mac and Cincinnati Chili Dogs. This is another homage-- a mix of retro fave sloppy joes and the Mediterranean-spiced chili. I tossed the beans into the meat mixture vs using them as a topping for ease of serving (and eating!) and reduced the cooking time a bit so it works better as a sloppy joe. The result is an oddly satisfying sandwich! Quicker and easier than traditional Cincinnati Chili but just as flavorful.

Protip: Use sturdy rolls! The first rolls I tried had a thinner bottom half and things got messy, quick!

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