May 18, 2018

Elotes-Inspired Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole



Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

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






Ingredients:

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)

Directions:

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




Ingredients:

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*
hummus


Directions:

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


Ingredients:
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


Directions:

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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April 30, 2018

Double Double Cookies



Ingredients:


1 cup flour
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 tablespoon peanut butter powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips



Directions:


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chips Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart.

Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 12 minutes. Slide the cookies out on the baking mat on to a cooling rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the baking mat/parchment on the wire rack before removing them to cool directly on the wire rack.


Yield: about 1 1/2-2 dozen cookies


My thoughts:
We braved Costco this weekend and while we were there they were baking what I and another shopper decided must have been chocolate chip cookies. They smelled so good! It was like they were pumping molten chocolate into the air around the bakery. I was tempted to buy some but since I wasn't 100% sure that's what they were making and I've never bought a dessert from Costco before, I left the bakery section empty-handed. 

I had thought we might end up at a bakery at some point this weekend but we didn't so I broke down and made some cookies late Sunday while catching up on some BritBox. I was going to make plain chocolate chip cookies but I remembered I had an open bag of peanut butter chips so I thought I'd add them too. Then I saw the open jar of peanut butter powder (still can't believe how easy that is to find these days!) and a smidge of fancy cocoa in the cabinet and tossed that in to make these cookies double double: double the chocolate, double the peanut butter flavor! There is only a bit of cocoa in the cookies so there is just a kiss of chocolate in the batter--the chips really pack the chocolate punch here.The peanut butter powder really works to spread the peanut butter flavor throughout the cookie without the mess and adjustments you have to make when working with actual peanut butter--it basically acts as flour here. 


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April 25, 2018

Pea Shoot Macaroni Salad



Ingredients:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning
1 tablespoon ground mustard (ground, like Colman's)
1 medium red onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3 tablespoons dill pickle relish
1/2 lb pea shoots, blanched and chopped
16 oz warm, slightly over-cooked macaroni*

Directions:
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, celery seed, vinegar, lemon pepper, mustard, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl, stir together the onion, pea shoots, pickle relish, and macaroni. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving, but overnight is best.



*When I was making the Hawaiian-style Mac Salad, I found that slightly overcooking the macaroni and stirring the dressing in warm makes for a much more flavorful macaroni salad, the dressing really seeps into the noodle.



My thoughts:
I always enjoy a good macaroni salad. I think it is because growing up we very rarely ate any food that my mom did not prepare herself and macaroni salad was one of the few things she didn't make and would pick up at the deli counter or better yet when from the seafood takeout place we'd get fried oysters once a year. YUM. I've recreated what I enjoyed as a child before so this time when the yen hit, I thought I'd go classic with a twist.

It's pea shoot season again and I just happened to have some on hand from my produce delivery and I thought rather than going with carrots and celery, I'd add that for a bit of color and crisp texture. Not to mention the subtle pea flavor and added vitamins or whatever. It looks a bit pale and bland but I also really packed in the flavor with plenty of mustard powder, celery seed and lemon pepper seasoning--no bland salad here!

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April 23, 2018

Green Bean Salad with Speck and Hearts of Palm



Ingredients:

for the salad:
1 lb green beans, blanched and cooled
6 oz (drained) hearts of palm medallions, quartered*
1/2 red onion, cut into thin quarter moons
1 tablespoon nonpareil capers

dressing:
2 tablespoons prosecco white vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon
freshly ground black pepper


2 oz speck, torn into bite-sized pieces (could also use prosciutto)

Directions:

Place the salad ingredients in a bowl. Toss. Set aside. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Toss over green bean mixture. Serve immediately or refrigerate one hour. Garnish with speck prior to serving.

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish


*I found these in a pouch in brine at Trader Joe's, canned slices are fine as well. The medallions hold their shape and the slices will separate into rings.

My thoughts:
Local produce! Finally! I ordered my first all local box of the season last week. It's a little pricey but worth it when it has fruit and vegetables I actually want to eat. I don't get even the mixed (local and not) boxes in the winter unless it is something special like an unusual squash because I can find most of what's in them at Aldi or a regular supermarket. But finally, things are growing here! My guess is these green beans were grown in a greenhouse or some sort of shelter because it is still getting pretty close to freezing here at night. 

Anyway! I had actually gone to Trader Joe's, which I am not a fan of, because I was at that shopping center going to a Daffodil show  and thought why not and while there I saw these odd hearts of palm medallions. They are from a bit of the plant that is further down on the stem (?) so it doesn't split into rings like regular hearts of palm which is a little odd but fine by me. I am all for reduced food waste. Plus they came in a nifty resealable bag which convenient because I actually only made a half batch of this salad for the two of us. They added a slightly pickled flavor and some texture interest. I always stock up on speck when it is on sale during Aldi's German week. I just love the texture and the salty, smoky richness it gives to everything. It is a truly fancy-seeming side that comes together very quickly and can be made ahead a bit. Honestly, I say to refrigerate it up to an hour but the leftovers I had the last day were just fine. Simply add the speck when ready to serve. 


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