July 31, 2013

Grilled Beef Salad Tacos


1 1/2 lb shaved steak
2 jalapenos, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 onion, quartered
1/2 cup Old El Paso Hot Taco Sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
8 Old El Paso Soft Tortillas, warmed
1 1/2 cups watercress
1 bunch radishes, sliced
2 avocados, diced
1/2 cup shredded mixed Mexican cheese

Place the steak, jalapenos, taco sauce, onion and lime juice in a resealable bag or marinating container. Marinate overnight or up to 48 hours.

Prepare your grill according to manufacturer's instructions. Spray a grill basket with nonstick grill spray. Add the contents of the marinating container. Using tongs, continuously toss the meat until it is fully cooked and starting to crisp around the edges.

Divide the meat, onions and peppers among the tortillas. Top with watercress, radish, avocados and cheese. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
Old El Paso asked a few bloggers to develop a grilled taco recipe and I was more than happy to join in! Tacos are some of my favorite things to make on on the grill because once you prep, you can assemble your whole meal outdoors. I decided to go for some contrasting flavors and textures with this one, the beef is crispy around the edges, the radishes are crispy and peppery, the avocados creamy and the watercress is fresh and bright. I actually let the shaved steak (easily found at the grocery store near regular steaks) marinate for two days do to a scheduling conflict and it was just as awesome as it was when it marinated for less. So if you are a planner, you can prep this way ahead of time.

You can check out my recipe at the Old El Paso site as well (along with an alternative photograph).

July 29, 2013

Dill & Fish Pepper Pickled Green Tomato Slices

5 large green (unripe) tomatoes (about 4-5 lbs total) cut into 1/4 inch slices and quartered
6 cloves garlic (one for each jar)
6 fish peppers* (one for each jar)
6 dill flowers (one for each jar)
1/4 (loose) cup dill, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard seed
1 1/2 tablespoons fennel seed
1 1/2 tablespoons dill seed
1/3 cup pickling salt
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water


Evenly divide the tomatoes, garlic, peppers, dill and seeds between 6 jars.

Bring the water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars. Pour in the boiling vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit at least one week before eating.

Yield: about 6 pints (I ended up with 5 pint jars and 1 pint & half jar)

*Or try cayenne

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.
My thoughts:
I love green tomato pickles! I've made a few versions over the years but I was especially excited to make these because I got to use Mid-Atlantic heirloom fish peppers and dill (and dill flowers!) right from my garden. I'm trying to let my tomatoes ripen so I did buy the tomatoes from the farm store. I was really excited to use the fish peppers, I'm waiting for them to turn red to make other things with them but green peppers were just fine for these pickles. This is our first year growing them, they can be difficult to find (despite dating back to the 1870s!) but they are growing well. Fish peppers are mostly used in seafood dishes (hence the name) but they work well with vegetables too. The dill flowers I threw in because they look pretty and add even more dill flavor.

I can't wait to try these on a burger or better yet, a po boy!

July 26, 2013

Coachella Valley Date (Gelato) Shake

1 cup 2% milk
1 cup pitted California Medjool dates
1 pint vanilla bean gelato

Place the milk and dates in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Add gelato. Pulse until blended. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 large date shakes

My thoughts:

I had read about date shakes, the supposed invention of a farmer with a Coachella Valley roadside stand in 1928, years ago and wanted to make my own but dates aren't as easily to come by here in Baltimore as they are in California. Sure, the stores occasionally stock them but they are often shriveled up and dried out. Not appetizing. So when I saw a big bag of fresh from Coachella Valley dates at Costco, of all places, I snatched it right up. Traditionally the shakes are made with ice cream but I used gelato for a lighter shake. It is sweet, but very refreshing on a hot, humid Baltimore afternoon.

July 24, 2013

Eggplant, Chicken and Okra Dirty Rice Skillet

1/2 lb chicken livers, pureed
1 large Ichiban Eggplant, diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 cup diced okra
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapenos, minced
2 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1 1/3 cups chicken stock (divided use)
2 cups cubed, cooked chicken breast and thigh meat
3 cups hot cooked white rice*

In a 14-inch cast iron skillet, heat some oil. Add the liver and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liver is nearly caramelized and starting to stick slightly to the pan. Add 1/3 cup of chicken stock and all spices and cook until the stock evaporates. Add the vegetables and cook until they are soft and translucent.

Stir in the rice, herbs, remaining stock, cubed chicken. Stir until the liquid is absorbed then serve.

*I used basmati rice which gave the dish a slight biryani flare.

My thoughts:
This is more of an homage to dirty rice than the real thing. It has the "dirty" appearance of the Cajun original but I added tons of vegetables and cubed chicken to make it into a complete one skillet meal. I know pureeing liver and then caramelizing sounds odd (and perhaps a bit unappetizing) but it adds an amazing depth of flavor and a bit of nutritional punch. We had the world's biggest eggplant so I threw that in too. Japanese eggplants get very soft when cooked and don't have the thick skin and slight bitterness Italian eggplants do so they are great for this sort of dish. Hmm, now that I think of it, this dish is full of ingredients that people frequently have polarizing reactions too: liver, eggplant and okra. Luckily, I love them all and hopefully you will too, once you try the dish.

July 17, 2013

Marinated Cherry Tomatoes with Capers and Basil

3 cups halved various heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/4 of 1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon nonpareil capers
5 sprigs' worth of leaves from bush basil*
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toss together the tomatoes and onion in a medium bowl. Set aside. Whisk together the capers, basil, garlic, vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the tomatoes. Marinate for at least 2 hours prior to serving.

*or about 3 tablespoons minced basil

My thoughts:
Tomatoes are my favorite vegetable (fruit!) but I refuse to eat them out of season so when summer comes, I gorge. Tomatoes on everything! I have a bunch of tomatoes I could tell were about a day from being too soft to eat so I made something that would take advantage of their soft ripeness: marinated tomatoes! Not quite a pickle, but not quite as salad either, marinated tomatoes are perfect as is or on toasted bread to sop up their juices. The tomatoes release a lot of liquid as they marinate so take care to toss them before you serve. You don't want to miss out on any of their savory goodness!

I used some bush basil from our garden (If you haven't tried it, it is great! It tastes a lot like regular basil but with tiny, thyme-like leaves.) but regular basil would work fine. Don't skip the capers though, they add the perfect pickle punch.

July 15, 2013

Radish, Smoked Salmon & Dill Dip

8 red radishes, quartered
4 oz sliced Norwegian smoked salmon
1/4 (loose) cup fresh dill
1 shallot, minced
8 oz brick Greek Cream Cheese with Greek Yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
zest from one lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Add the radish to a food processor. Pulse into small bits. Add the salmon and pulse twice. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until a relatively smooth dip forms. Refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving.

My thoughts:
We've gone a bit radish crazy here. They are in season and just so fresh and good looking at the farm store and even the regular grocery, I keep finding myself coming home with a pound or so of them even if I didn't have anything in mind to make with them. I wanted something to have with an easy dinner of panini so I decided to make a dip. I used my new favorite Greek cream cheese (my best supermarket discovery of the spring!) to make it a bit lighter, fresh dill from the garden and tons of radishes and my other true love, smoked salmon. It came out pink (why didn't I expect that?) that looked quite cheerful on the plate. I was nervous how it would turn out because, let's be honest, it is a odd flavor combination but it was zippy, fresh tasting and just a little smoky. It is equally delicious on vegetables and chips. I bet you could even use the leftovers as a sandwich spread!

July 12, 2013

Radish Cucumber Relish

1 "baby" cucumber, small dice
3 medium-large red radishes, small dice
3 tablespoons small dice onion
1 serrano pepper, minced

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seed
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Place the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss to evenly distribute. Allow to sit 20 minutes before serving.

My thoughts:
I'm not afraid to admit it, I love hot dogs. I normally am a sauerkraut purist but a woman can not live on kraut alone. I decided to mix it up by topping my (locally made!) hot dogs with this easy radish cucumber relish. It is crunchy and fresh, the perfect foil for a meaty dog. Just take care to finely chop the ingredients so they stay on your hot dog and not on your plate.

July 08, 2013

Upside Down Nectarine Cake

2 cups peeled, sliced nectarines (from about 3-4 nectarines)
2-3 tablespoons demerara sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup nectarine puree*
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil (plus some to grease the pan)
1 1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the bottom of the pan, top with a single layer of nectarine slices. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together the liquid ingredients. Beat in the sugar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients in with the wet. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a heavy duty 8 inch baking pan. Top the sliced nectarines with cake batter. Smooth the cake batter to all of the edges and make sure no nectarines are peeking out. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, then invert to serve.

*Make this yourself in a blender. If you have a high powered blender like a Vita-Mix, leave the skins on. I used 2 nectarines to make 1 cup puree.

My thoughts:
If you follow me on instagram you might have seen a sneak peek of this recipe over the weekend! I swear this recipe is just as good as it looks. Maybe even better.

I love peach upside down cakes because the top (even if made with not the sweetest, most ripe peach in the world) gets super sweet in a fresh, natural tasting way and the cake just under the peaches gets sort of custardy. Peaches are pretty great but do you know what fruit I like even more than peaches? Nectarines! No itchy fuzz to contend with.

I wanted to make a dessert to bring to our friends' house and it needed to be vegan. Vegan baking is always a little tricky for me because I don't have things like vegan margarine, egg replacer or soy (or other non-dairy) milk on hand and I hate buying ingredients that I probably won't end up again just for one recipe. So I decided to swap out the dairy (and egg) with nectarine puree (which also provided extra nectarine flavor to the cake) and baking powder and hope for the best. My gamble paid off! The cake was moist and delicious.

July 05, 2013

Raspberry Thai Basil Jam

3 cups lightly crushed raspberries (about 1 1/2 lb)
3 tablespoons powdered pectin*
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons chopped Thai Basil


Evenly sprinkle the bottom of the Ball Jam Maker with the pectin. Spoon the fruit in a relatively even layer over the pectin. Press the jam button. You will hear a beep at 4 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar and Thai basil over the fruit mixture while the machine is still running. Cover and wait for the jam cycle to complete. Press the cancel button and unplug the machine. If not using a Ball Jam Maker, make the jam on the stovetop using the traditional method as seen in this recipe.

Ladle the jam into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: about 4 8-oz jars

*I recommend these jars of flex batch pectin. 3 tablespoons equals 1/2 of a pouch of boxed pectin.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
I'm always excited to can something made entirely from things (well, not the sugar, I'm not quite to the point of harvesting my own sugarcane yet) from my own garden. This year our raspberries have really taken off and we've been getting quite a harvest. Not enough to make a HUGE batch of jam but enough for about 4 jars from only 2 day's worth of berries. I used my jam maker while I was busy cooking other things but you can, of course, make this jam the old fashioned way using the same proportions. Another plus for small batch canning, I can use a regular stockpot and my insert from the home canning discovery kit instead of my usual huge rack and giant canning pot. The water boils so much more quickly! I made this whole jam start to finish in about 35 minutes, including the 10 minute water batch and crushing the berries. Can't beat that!

The Thai basil was at the suggestion of my husband, we're growing some in the garden and it is doing quite well. We both love adding fresh herbs to berry and fruit drinks and desserts so why not jam? It added a bright herbalness that was great with the sweet raspberries.

July 03, 2013

Steak & Veggie Gorgonzola Pasta Salad


for the steak:
1 1/4 lb flank steak
2 tablespoons chimichurri spice mix
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 serrano pepper, minced
1 shallot, diced
1 radish, minced

for the salad:
1 lb cooked small pasta (I used cavatappi)
1 bulb fennel, diced
5 red radishes, sliced and quartered
4 baby cucumbers, diced
1/2 cup diced yellow carrots
1/4 cup diced green onion
1 cubanelle pepper, small dice
1 lb mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
3-4 oz crumbled gorgonzola
1/4 lb large green olives that were packed in oil with chile flakes, sliced*

for the dressing:
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoons Dijon

Marinate the steak with the chimichurri mix, shallot, radish, pepper and vinegar for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Preheat oven to 400. Heat a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe skillet. Sear each side for 1-2 minutes. Finish in oven for 3-5 minutes or until desired doneness is reached. Remove to cutting board and tent with foil. Allow to sit a couple of minutes before slicing. Slice thinly then cut into bite-sized pieces and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, toss together the other salad ingredients. Add the steak when cool. Whisk together the dressing in a small bowl. Toss with salad

*I get these at my local Italian store but any place with a large selection of olives should have them. They are worth seeking out!

My thoughts:
I love one bowl meals and of those, pasta salads top my list. They are easy to make (just lots of chopping), crowd-pleasing and can be made of pretty much anything you throw at them. This one started with a flank steak I had planned to grill until weather got in the way and the discovery of a huge bulb of fennel in the crisper. I ended up throwing in a lot more items from that crisper and ended up with a vaguely Italian pasta salad that is robust tasting and packed full of veggies. I love how the steak, Gorgonzola, olives and fennel came together to form the base of the flavor and the cucumbers, carrots, pepper and radishes added crunch.  Perfect for dinner, lunch or a potluck, it travels well and was even good the next day!

July 01, 2013

Blackberry Thai Basil Lemonade

1 1/2 cups lemon juice (from about 6 large lemons)
3 cups cold water
2 cups fresh blackberries

for the simple syrup
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup water
small handful Thai basil

Puree the blackberries in a blender. Strain to yield about 1/2 cup berry juice. Set aside.

Make infused simple syrup. Allow to cool.

Add the lemon juice, water and berry puree to a large pitcher. Stir in syrup to taste. Serve cold.

Bonus! make lemonade ice cubes and float a berry in each to use in the drinks.

My thoughts:
I've been so excited to harvest our blackberries this year. Last year we didn't get many but this year it is a bumper crop and way earlier than normal (most years we see blackberries in August) I've been scrambling to use them up and thought a refreshing drink might be the ticket. It uses a fair amount of berries but it also uses a good bit of water and lemon juice so even if you aren't overloaded like I am, you can make this lemonade. Berryade? It is the perfect mix of sweet and tart with a hint of herb.