Tuesday, July 31

Grilled Lamb Skewers

Skewers and kabobs are a great, easy way to entertain during the summer. The clean-up is virtually non-existent (no pots and pans to wash) and the built-in handle of the wooden sticks make this an ideal grab-and-go or cocktail party food. This lamb version is full of rich flavor and is a unique alternative to barbecue or teriyaki chicken. Just make sure to plan to make this a day ahead so that the marinade will get a chance to really flavor the meat. Once you’re ready for dinner, the lamb just needs a few minutes on a hot grill until it's ready to be enjoyed.

Grilled Lamb Skewers:
  • Cut 1 lb. boneless leg of lamb into bite-size cubes and place in a plastic resealable bag.
  • Add in 1/4 c. white wine, 1/4 c. olive oil, 4 cloves minced garlic, 2 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. sugar, 2 tsp. whole grain mustard, a handful of fresh thyme, and 1 tsp. crushed red chili flakes.
  • Close up the bag and put in the fridge to marinate overnight, turning once or twice.
  • Twenty minutes before cooking, pre-heat a grill to high and remove the meat from the fridge.
  • Slide the lamb onto skewers* and place on the grill for 4-5 minutes per side.
  • Remove and let rest for 5 minutes, then garnish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and feta cheese.**

Serves two - four
*If using wooden skewers, soak in water for a few minutes to prevent burning.
**Optional, but highly recommended.

Monday, July 30

Lobster Fra Diavolo

I always try and plan for leftovers whenever I cook something that takes a bit of time and effort (like steamed lobster). Cracking and harvesting the meat from the shells can take some work, but this pasta comes together in no time. The fresh spicy tomato sauce would be great on its own but the big pieces of lobster running throughout take it to the next level. I served it with buccatini because it holds so much sauce, but linguine or spaghetti would also work well.

Lobster Fra Diavolo:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, add in 1/2 lb. buccatini pasta, and cook until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet and add in 4 cloves minced garlic and a large pinch of red chili flakes.
  • Let the garlic cook for a minute, or until fragrant, then crush one 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes with your hands and add to the pan.
  • Season the sauce with salt and pepper, then let the sauce cook for 20-30 minutes or until the tomatoes break down and thicken.
  • Add in sliced, cooked lobster meat from one 1 1/2 lb. lobster* and turn the heat to low.
  • Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.
  • Toss until the pasta absorbs most of the sauce, then divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two-three
*See recipe for steaming lobster here.

Thursday, July 26

Scallops with Fennel & Kumquat

Scallops seem like one of those fancy restaurant dishes that are best left to professionals, but in actuality they are super easy to make. I make tons of variations on them (such as this and this), but this dish is especially light and summery. The fennel salad is a crisp and refreshing contrast to the meaty scallops, and I love the way the sweet and tangy citrus pairs together. I used kumquats that I had previously bought for this cocktail but orange or grapefruit segments would also work nicely. Serve this with a cold glass of white wine and enjoy.

Scallops with Fennel & Kumquat Salad:

  • Very thinly slice* 1 large bulb of fennel and 1/2 dozen kumquats.**
  • Combine with 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large skillet over high heat.
  • Pat 3/4 lb. scallops dry with a paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Add scallops to the hot pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.
  • To serve, divide scallops onto plates and top with the fennel salad.

Serves two
*I used a mandoline to make quick work of this.
**Seeds removed. Or use 1/2 orange or grapefruit segments.

Wednesday, July 25

How To: Steam A Lobster

Even though I have a ton of pride for the west coast (best coast), every summer I dream about spending time in New England. Most of this fantasy comes from that knowledge that lobsters are dirt cheap in certain areas, and I love the idea of spontaneously pulling up to a road side stand, buying a few, and cooking them for dinner. Luckily my favorite local seafood store gets tons of live lobsters shipped to them so I can still live out a portion of this dream at home. We cooked some this past weekend in my favorite simple preparation: steamed, cracked, and served with a lot of melted butter.

Steamed Lobster:
To Cook
  • Bring 1" of water to a rapid boil in a large pot, add in 2 live lobsters,* and cover with a lid.
  • Cook for 15 minutes, or until the lobsters turn bright red.
  • Remove from the pot and let cool slightly.
To Crack
  • Pull the tails off, crack the shell, and pull out the meat in one large chunk. Slice.
  • Pull the legs off and use a rolling pin to roll the meat up and out of the shell.
  • Pull the claws off, remove the meat from the knuckles, then crack the claw shell and pull out the claw meat in one piece.**
  • Serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.

Serves two - four
*About 1 1/2 lbs. each.
**I saved the shells and bodies to make a lobster stock with.

Tuesday, July 24


I’m somewhat obsessed with the kumquatinis at The Tavern, a restaurant and bar here in L.A. Kumquats are a pretty underrated fruit and I think they can be intimidating to people who haven’t worked with them before, which is too bad because they have such a unique flavor. They can actually be eaten whole, with most of their sweetness coming from their skin and the tart citrus flavor coming from the flesh inside. I purchased a pint at my local farmer’s market and whipped up my version of the Tavern’s cocktail, which is tangy and not too sweet, the perfect thing to sip on a warm summer day or evening. 

  • Heat 1/4 c. sugar and 1/4 c. water in a small sauce pot until the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Let cool.
  • Meanwhile, slice a dozen kumquats in half and place in a cocktail shaker with 1/2 c. vodka,* the juice of 1/2 orange, and the juice of 1/4 lemon.
  • Use a muddler* to smash the kumquats and release their juices, then add in 2 tbsp. simple syrup** and lots of ice.
  • Shake the mixture until very cold, then strain into glasses filled with more ice.
  • Garnish with a few slices of kumquats and serve immediately.

Serves two - three
*Or more, depending on how strong you like your drinks.
**Or more, depending on how sweet you like your drinks.

Monday, July 23

Plum Tartlets

I love all the fresh summer fruit at our farmer's market and tend to hone in on yellow peaches (seen here, here, and here), nectarines, or strawberries. Still, I like to sample different produce and was blown away by the plums at one of the stands this past weekend. These tartlets are a fast, easy way to showcase any stone fruit, but the plums become almost jam-like when they bake and soften. I like to cut the puff-pastry into individual portions and make each tart separately so that everyone has their own.

Plum Tartlets:
  • Defrost 1 sheet of puff pastry in the refrigerator, prick all over with a fork, then cut into quarters.
  • Meanwhile, thinly slice 4 medium-size plums and discard the pits.
  • Arrange the slices from 1 plum of each sheet of pastry, slightly overlapping the slices to cover as much surface as possible.
  • Cut a few tbsp. of butter into small cubes and dot the top of each tart.
  • Sprinkle each tart with 1/2-1 tbsp. of sugar and place on a baking sheet.
  • Bake the tarts in a 400F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the plums have softened.
  • Heat 1/3 c. apricot jelly and 1 tbsp. water in a sauce pan and use a pastry brush to coat the top of each tart with the mixture.
  • Let cool until glaze sets, about 20 minutes.

Serves four

Friday, July 20

Chicken Bacon Caesar Sandwich

I rarely make lunch since it’s provided for free at work and on the weekends I usually opt for a large brunch instead. But occasionally I’ll be hungry and motivated enough to make something special in the early afternoon and this chicken bacon Caesar sandwich fits the bill. It’s very low maintenance (even more so if you plan ahead and make this solely out of leftovers) and super satisfying with tons of juicy chicken, crisp bacon, and Caesar-dressed romaine lettuce. I cheated and used store-bought Wolfgang Puck Caesar dressing but that’s allowed every once and a while. It’s the kind of messy, hearty lunch that will keep you full for the rest of the day.

Chicken Bacon Caesar Sandwich:
  • Rub 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Place on a baking sheet and roast in a 400F oven for 40 minutes, or until just cooked through.
  • Let chicken cool for 10 minutes, then peel of the skin, cut the meat off the bones, and slice the breasts into thin slices.
  • Meanwhile, cut a small ciabatta loaf in half and toast until golden.
  • Spread the top half of the bread with Caesar dressing and layer a few strips of bacon* on the bottom half.
  • Layer the chicken over the bacon.
  • Toss a handful of romaine lettuce hearts with the dressing,** salt, and pepper and layer on top of the chicken.
  • Place the top half of the bread over the lettuce and cut the sandwich in quarters.

Serves two
*I like to cook my bacon in the oven to free up time. See recipe here.
**I like to keep the lettuce leaves whole.

Thursday, July 19

Tomato & Panko Stuffed Avocados

Avocados are a major pantry staple in California, and I tend to eat a lot of them (it’s kind of hard to resist when they show up at every farmer’s market all year long). That means lots of homemade guacamole and slices served alongside eggs and toast in the morning or folded into salads. I knew I had to try this recipe, though, which is unlike any avocado dish I’ve had before. Avocado halves are filled with a warm tomato and breadcrumb filling before taking a trip to the broiler to warm up. You’re left with a soft, buttery avocado shell and a crispy top – the perfect starter to side to impress your guests (or add an egg on top for a unique breakfast option).

Tomato & Panko Stuffed Avocados:
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet and add in one minced shallot.
  • Cook for a minute to soften, then add in 1 pt. whole grape tomatoes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and let cook for 5-7 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft.
  • Stir in 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs and toast until golden, about 3 more minutes.
  • Meanwhile, halve 2 large avocados* and remove the pit.
  • Squeeze a little lime juice over each half and sprinkle with salt.
  • Gently spoon the tomato mixture into each half and place on a baking tray.
  • Place the tray in the middle of the oven with your broiler on high.
  • Broil the avocados for 3 minutes, or until the tops are brown, then turn off the broiler and let them sit in the oven for another 5 minutes.**
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two (light meal)
Serves four (starter or side dish)
*The avocados should be ripe but not overripe or they will fall apart.
**This will warm the avocado throughout without burning the top.

Tuesday, July 17

Roasted Red Pepper & Corn Soup

It might seem like a bad choice to make soup during the summer but it’s actually a great way to experience the taste of peaking produce. This recipe calls for some of my favorite summertime vegetables – heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, and sweet corn -  and concentrates their flavors with a two-step cooking process. It’s the perfect thing to eat at the kitchen table or out in the yard when the fog rolls in from the beach at night. Freeze any leftovers and you’ll have a taste of summer to last you well into autumn.

Roasted Red Pepper & Corn Soup:
  • Halve and de-seed 5 large red bell peppers, quarter and core 4 large heirloom tomatoes, and peel and halve 3 large shallots.
  • Toss the vegetables and 3 cloves garlic* with canola oil and salt and place skin-side up in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • Roast the vegetables in a 425F oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the skin has started to char and pucker.
  • Pull the skin off the vegetables and place into a large stock pot with 2 1/2 c. chicken stock and a large pinch of paprika.
  • Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.
  • Carefully transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer back to a pot and keep on a simmer until ready to serve.
  • Meanwhile, remove the kernels from an ear of corn.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. butter in a pan, add in the corn, 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, salt, and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until tender.
  • Divide the corn into bowls, top with the soup, and garnish with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro leaves and crumbled feta cheese.**

Serves four
*Leave the skins on, then squeeze the garlic from the skin before placing it in the pot.
**Optional, but delicious.

Monday, July 16

Cod Baked with Chorizo & Tomato

We're lucky to have two good friends who watch our cats, Chip and Ralphie, when we're out of town. As a thank you for taking care of them while we were in Minnesota, my fiance and I had them over for dinner last week. These friends eat my cooking often, so I wanted to surprise them with something extra special that would still be easy enough to make on a weeknight. I settled on this recipe for cod baked in a rich, spicy chorizo and tomato sauce and it was such a crowd pleaser. I made the sauce as soon as I got home from work so that the whole house smelled delicious when they arrived. A few minutes before dinner, I baked the fish in the oven and served the whole thing family style.

Cod Baked with Chorizo & Tomato:
  • Core, de-seed, and chop a red bell pepper and puree in a blender with a pinch of salt.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large pan and add in 1 lb. crumbled chorizo sausage.
  • Cook sausage until brown, about 5 minutes, then add in 3 cloves thinly sliced garlic and a pinch of red chili flakes and cook for another minute.
  • Deglaze the pan with 1 c. white wine and cook for another minute or two.
  • Add in the red pepper puree and 4-5 chopped fresh tomatoes.
  • Let sauce simmer for 20-30 minutes, then season with salt and pepper and transfer to a baking dish.*
  • Nestle four 4 oz. pieces of boneless cod into the sauce and bake in a 425 oven for 10-12 minutes, or until fish is opaque.
  • Sprinkle with a handful of of chopped fresh parsley and divide into shallow bowls.
  • Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Serves four
*Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

Friday, July 13

Zucchini Pasta

Quick pastas are a weeknight standby for me, and it doesn't get much simpler than this grated zucchini version. The same treatment can be applied to any fresh veggie that's in season, but I like how the thin strips of zucchini blend in with the pasta so that there's almost an equal ratio to noodles in every bite. Since there's so few ingredients, it's really important to season well with salt and pepper (and lemon and cheese) to keep it from being bland. I served the pasta with a strawberry and mixed green salad and it was the perfect mid-week meal.

Zucchini Pasta:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, and cook 8 oz. whole wheat pasta until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, grate 2 large zucchini on the large holes of a box grater, sprinkle with salt, and place in a colander to drain for 10 minutes.
  • Squeeze out all the excess water from the zucchini and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large pan and add in 4-5 minced garlic cloves and a large pinch of red chili flakes.
  • Let cook for 1 minutes, or until fragrant, then add in the zucchini and cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until tender. Season with salt* and pepper.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking water.
  • Add the pasta, the zest of 1/2 lemon, 2 tbsp. chiffonade basil, and 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese and toss for 2 minutes, or until combined.
  • Add water as needed to moisten the pasta and create a sauce.
  • To serve, divide onto plates and top with more Parmesan and basil.

Serves two - three
*Be careful with the salt as the zucchini was previously salted to remove moisture.

Thursday, July 12

Skirt Steak Tacos

Spice-rubbed grilled skirt steak makes a quick and cheap Mexican meal

Grilled Skirt Steak Tacos

I love entertaining, but cooking for more than a few people can be a little hectic because our kitchen is small. I’ve come up with a few ways to make dinner for a crowd easier by relying on our outdoor grill (less people in the kitchen and less cleanup) and assembling as much as possible in advance. I made these skirt steak tacos for some friends recently and they were such a hit. I made all the taco condiments in advance (even taking some store-bought help) and seasoned the steak before people came over. We quickly grilled the meat and warmed the tortillas before serving and then allowed guests to make their own tacos. It’s the type of laid-back, homey meal that I love serving to friends.

Grilled Skirt Steak Tacos:
  • Heat a grill to high heat. Meanwhile, let 1 1/2 lbs. skirt steak sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
  • Rub the steak with olive oil and sprinkle with a seasoning blend of 2 tbsp. chili powder, 2 tbsp. cumin powder, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, and salt.
  • Grill the steak for 2-3 minutes per side, then remove to a plate, cover with foil, and let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • While steak rests, warm the tortillas on the grill for 30 seconds per side and stack onto a plate.
  • Slice the steaks against the grain and place on a platter.
  • To serve, set out the steak, tortillas, guacamole,* salsa, queso fresco, cilantro leaves, and diced raw onion.
  • Allow guests to assemble their own tacos as desired.

Serves four - six
*Recipe here.

Wednesday, July 11

Strawberry & Mixed Green Salad

I make a simple green salad (usually just arugula and Parmesan with this dressing) a couple times a week as a dinner side, so I’m always looking for new additions to spice things up. This strawberry salad is just as easy as my go-to but packs a little more excitement with slices of berries and toasted almonds. It’s a summery update to my favorite fall fruit and green salad (seen here) of blue cheese, pecans, and apples, and it’s a great way to use some of the leftover strawberries I always have on hand after a trip to the farmer’s market. It will instantly jazz up any weeknight dinner and is hearty enough to have alone for a light lunch.

Strawberry & Mixed Green Salad:
For Dressing
  • Finely mince 1 medium shallot and add to a bowl with 1 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar.
  • Whisk in 3 tbsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
For Salad
  • Slice the tops off of 1 pt. of fresh strawberries and then thinly slice and add to a large mixing bowl.
  • Add in 6 oz. of mixed baby greens and 1/2 c. toasted* sliced almonds.
  • Toss in the dressing and season salad with salt and pepper.
  • To serve, divide onto plates and top with a few shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese.**

Serves three - four (side dish)
*To toast nuts, place in a hot dry pan for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly.
**I use a vegetable peeler to make thin, long shavings.

Tuesday, July 10

Cold Asian Noodle Salad

Summer heat is at its peak (it was over 100 degrees in Minnesota last weekend) and sometimes its just too hot to do much of anything, especially cook. Luckily this cold noodle salad is super refreshing and doesn't require much work beyond boiling water and cutting fresh veggies. Sometimes cold noodle dishes can feel like leftovers that haven't been reheated, but this is more of a traditional salad packed with a ton of raw, crisp vegetables and tossed with a spicy Asian dressing. It's the perfect thing to eat on a warm summer evening and leftovers make great lunches for the rest of the week.

Cold Asian Noodle Salad:
For Dressing
  • Whisk together 1/3 c. rice wine vinegar, 1/3 c. canola oil, 1 tbsp. Sriracha, and 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
For Salad
  • Slice 1 large cucumber, 1 bell pepper, and 1 bunch of carrots into matchstick size pieces.*
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add in 10 oz. soba noodles, and cook until al dente, about 4 minutes.
  • Drain immediately and pour cold water on top until noodles are cold.
  • Toss noodles with dressing, the vegetables, 3 thinly sliced scallions, 1 handful of roughly chopped cilantro, and 1 tbsp. sesame seeds.**
  • Divide into bowls and serve.

Serves four
*Try to keep the size and quantity the same of all the veggies.
**I also added 1 cooked, shredded chicken breast to my fiance's bowl before tossing.

Monday, July 9

Week Review: Minnesota

Lobster & Egg Crostini from Bar La Grassa

Early Morning View of the Lake

I just came back from our annual trip to Minnesota for the Fourth, which is quickly becoming my favorite trip of the year. Most of the time was spent on Lake Sylvan but we still managed to get in a couple great meals in the twin cities. The lobster and egg crostini from Bar La Grassa was one of the most complex, delicious bites of food I've had in awhile, and no trip would be complete without a juicy lucy burger (the cheese is stuffed in the center of the burger and also melted on top). Before heading up to the lake we stopped off at the Minneapolis farmer's market for some fresh ingredients to make large batches of green bean salad, roasted corn, and steaks with mushroom red wine sauce. The food was great, but it was the time spent relaxing and enjoying friends and family that made the trip so memorable.

Uff Da Juicy Lucy Burger from Blue Door Pub

Lake Sylvan

Crab Ravioli and Pappardelle with Veal Ragu from Bar La Grassa