Thursday, September 26

Shrimp Enchiladas

My recipe for quick and easy chicken enchiladas is always a crowd-pleaser, but this similar shrimp version might be even better. I used some of the homemade charred tomatillo salsa that I featured here, tender juicy shrimp, and bound everything together with some mild jack cheese. It's a great recipe for a weeknight dinner party because it looks impressive but is actually really simple to make. The whole thing came together in about thirty minutes, and leftovers (if they last that long) taste even better the next day.

Shrimp Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce:
  • Heat 1/2 tbsp. canola oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Season 3/4 lb. of peeled and deveined shrimp with salt and pepper and add the skillet.
  • Cook shrimp until they turn pink and opaque, then let cool slightly.*
  • Meanwhile, pour a thin layer of tomatillo sauce** in the bottom of a baking dish.
  • Dip both sides of a corn tortilla into more sauce, add in some of the shrimp and a handful of grated Monterey Jack cheese.
  • Roll the tortilla up as tightly as possible, then place seam-side down into the baking dish.
  • Repeat until 8 enchiladas are made, then pour 1 c. of sauce over everything and sprinkle with 1/2 c. grated cheese.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  • Sprinkle with a handful of fresh cilantro.

Serves four
*If shrimp is slightly underdone, it will finish cooking in the oven.
**You will need about 2 c. of sauce total. I used this recipe and added a little water to thin it out.

Wednesday, September 25

Charred Tomatillo Salsa

As someone who grew up eating a lot of Mexican food but was picky about tomatoes, I've always been partial to tomatillo salsa. I love its green color, slight tang, and how it adds a lot of flavor without overwhelming heat. This charred version adds a subtle smokiness and is great on grilled meat or vegetables, in tacos, or served with chips. It couldn't be easier to make and is so much tastier than the jarred store-bought stuff. Your friends will be impressed.

Charred Tomatillo Salsa:
  • Grill* 1 1/2 lb. of tomatillos, husks removed, and 2 jalapeño peppers* until skin is blackened and vegetables are soft.
  • Rub off most of the black skin, remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers, then transfer everything to a blender.
  • Add in 2 roughly chopped scallions, 1 cloves of garlic, 1 tbsp. of olive oil, and a large pinch of salt.
  • Blend the salsa until smooth, then check for seasoning.

Makes three cups
*Or use a broiler.
**Jalapenos tend to vary wildly in spiciness. I added two and it ended up being very spicy. You can try adding one if you're worried it will be too hot.

Tuesday, September 24

Corn, Potato, & Bacon Chowder

Summer ended way too quickly, and I'm scrounging to find the last crop of summer produce at our farmers market before the months of squash and winter greens. I just couldn't resist buying a somewhat homely bunch of sweet corn for use in a final corn soup. This chowder lends itself nicely to fall, with hearty chunks of potato, smokey bacon, and tender corn kernels. Like all soup, this will freeze well and can provide a welcome taste of summer in the middle of winter.

Corn, Potato, & Bacon Chowder:
  • Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add in 4 slices of thick cut bacon, diced.
  • Cook until the fat renders and bacon is crisp, then use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and set aside.
  • Add in 1 diced onion and 1 lb. of diced potatoes and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until vegetables have softened.
  • Meanwhile, remove the kernels from 10 ears of corn, reserving 2 of the corn cobs.
  • Add in 6 c. low-sodium chicken broth, 2 c. of half and half, the corn cobs, 4 sprigs of thyme, a large pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
  • Remove the corn cobs and thyme stems and add in the corn kernels. Skim any solids off the top of the soup.
  • Cook for another 15 minutes, or until corn is tender. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.*
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with some of the bacon bits.

Serves six
*If you prefer a thicker soup, transfer 1/3 of the soup to a blender and puree, then stir back into the remaining soup.

Monday, September 23

Chorizo, Potato, & Pepper Hash

A hearty breakfast hash made of spicy chorizo, potatoes, and peppers and topped with a poached egg

Chorizo, Potato, & Pepper Hash

We had a gloriously lazy Sunday filled with watching football and lounging in our PJs until late afternoon. We were out late the night before for a friend's birthday celebration and I knew that I wasn't going to be in the mood for leaving the house or making an elaborate breakfast at home. This hash was perfect: low maintenance and excellent for curing a hangover. If you plan ahead, all the vegetables can be prepped and chopped the night before for an even easier morning. This recipe can also easily double to serve a larger crowd without any extra work.

Related Recipes:
- Lobster Hash
- Chorizo Huevos Rancheros
- Bacon & Brussels Sprout Hash

Chorizo, Potato, & Pepper Hash:
  • Place 1 lb. of Yukon gold potatoes in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and cook for 15 minutes, or until nearly cooked through.*
  • Drain potatoes, cool slightly, and dice.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a skillet and add in 2/3 lb. of chorizo sausage, casings removed.
  • Break up the sausage with a wooden spoon and cook until fat has rendered and sausage is brown.
  • Remove the sausage to a plate, leaving the fat in the pan.
  • Add in 1 diced red onion, 1 diced bell pepper, 1 hatch chile,** and the potatoes. Season with salt.
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened and starting to brown.
  • Add in 1 minced clove of garlic and cook for another minute, then add the sausage back in and stir to combine.
  • Stir in a handful of fresh cilantro, then divide onto plates.
  • Top the hash with a poached egg and serve with salsa or hot sauce as desired.

Serves two-four
*You should still feel a little resistance when inserting a knife into the potatoes.
**Or any other medium-spicy chile.

Thursday, September 19

Peanut Butter Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are most people's favorite, but I think that peanut butter can be just as good. This recipe is super low maintenance but the results are incredible! A soft, crumbly cookie (almost shortbread-like) with intense peanut butter flavor and a great balance of salty and sweet. It's pretty much impossible to eat just one, and you can always drizzle a little melted chocolate on top for some added sweetness. A glass of milk must be served alongside.

Easy Peanut Butter Cookies:
  • Use a mixer to blend together 1/2 c. creamy peanut butter and 1/2 c. softened unsalted butter until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in 1/2 c. white sugar and 1/2 c. brown sugar, then beat in 1 egg and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.*
  • Stir in 1 c. all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt until just combined.
  • Arrange heaping tsp. of dough onto a lined baking sheet, then dip a fork in flour a press down on each cookie to form a cross-hatch pattern.
  • Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edges.**
  • Let the cookies cool, then serve.

Makes two dozen cookies
*Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
**Cookies will still be pretty soft but will firm up as they cool.

Wednesday, September 18

Tom Kha Gai Soup

Authentic coconut-lemongrass soup that will rival your favorite take-out restaurant

I love ordering tom kha gai soup at Thai restaurants, so I was excited to come across Bon Appetit's recipe a couple of weeks ago. For those unfamiliar, tom kha gai is a coconut-lemongrass broth with chicken and mushrooms. It has a bright, complex flavor for a soup that requires relatively few ingredients (all which can be found at the regular grocery store) and cooks in about 30 minutes. It's perfect for the upcoming fall and winter months and makes a simple quick weeknight meal. Leftovers can store in the fridge for a few days and reheat easily.

More Thai Recipes:
- Red Curry Fish with Cilantro & Peanuts
- Thai Stir-Fried Brussels Sprouts
- Thai-Style Beef Salad

Tom Kha Gai Soup:
  • Use the back of the knife to bruise a 1" piece of peeled ginger and 3 pieces of lemongrass. Use a vegetable peeler to take wide strips of zest off of 1 lime.
  • Bring 6 c. low-sodium chicken broth, 1/4 c. of lime juice, the zest, the ginger, and the lemongrass to a boil.
  • Boil the broth for 10-15 minutes, then strain into a new large pot and discard the solids.
  • Return the broth to a low boil and add in 1 lb. thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken breast and 1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms.*
  • Cook the mushrooms and chicken for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms are tender.
  • Turn the heat to low and stir in 1 can of coconut milk, 2 tsp. sugar, and 2 tbsp. fish sauce.
  • Add in about 1 tbsp. of Sriracha sauce, depending on your desired heat.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each with a handful of cilantro leaves and a lime wedge.

Serves six-eight
*I used a mixture of oyster mushrooms and cremini.

Tuesday, September 17

Kale Soba Noodle Bowl with Ginger-Lime Dressing

A healthy bowl of greens and buckwheat noodles

We just came back from a long weekend in Palm Desert with my parents and in-laws. It was a relaxing vacation full of much-needed pampering and a little indulgence. All the eating and drinking was wonderful, but now I need to detox with a few healthy meals. This noodle bowl (based on this recipe from My New Roots) is full of nutrients: raw leafy greens, buckwheat, seeds, and nuts. The ginger-lime dressing adds a ton of flavor and it's one of those meals that I'd gladly eat any day of the week. Once everything is chopped and toasted, it just takes a few minutes to assemble and is fun to customize individually based on personal preferences. Leftovers hold up well since the kale won't get soggy after it's dressed.

Related Recipes:
- Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, & Kale Soba Noodles
- Kale, Coconut, & Farro Salad
- Salmon Soba Noodles

Kale Soba Noodle Bowl with Ginger-Lime Dressing:
For Dressing
  • Whisk together a 1" piece of minced ginger, 1/2 red chile, 2 minced scallions, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 2 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil, 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp. maple syrup, and the zest and juice of 1 lime.*
For Noodle Salad
  • Heat a dry skillet over the stove and add in 1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes** and 1/2 c. cashews until the coconut starts to brown.
  • Add in 1/2 c. sesame seeds*** and toast for another few minutes, or until lightly browned and nutty smelling. Set aside.****
  • Remove the ribs from 1 large bunch of kale, stack the leaves and roll up, then thinly slice into ribbons.
  • Toss the kale with a little less than half of the dressing, massaging it into the leaves for a few minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook 1/2 lb. soba noodles for 5 minutes, or until al dente.
  • Drain the noodles and rinse with cold water until room temperature, then toss with half the dressing and 1/2 c. cilantro leaves.
  • Divide the noodles into bowls, then top each with some of the dressed kale, sprinkle with the toasted crunchies, slices of avocado, and reserved scallions and chile.

Serves four
*Reserve the other half of the chile and 2 more minced scallions for the toppings.
**Also called coconut chips.
***I used a mixture of black and white sesame seeds.
****Everything can be toasted, cooled, and stored in an airtight container a few days in advance.

Wednesday, September 11

Vegetable Burrito Bowls

All the makings of a vegetarian burrito, sans the tortilla

Vegetarian Burrito Bowl Recipe

These vegetable burrito bowls are one of my favorite healthy meals because they are so filling and flavorful and can be customized to infinite variations, including non-vegetarian versions. This is a great meal to plan for the end of the week because it makes use of a lot of leftovers: extra brown rice (or try quinoa, or spanish rice, or farro), a bit of black beans, a lots of grilled veggies. I make a spicy-sweet dressing from jalapenos, cilantro, honey, and fruit juice that brings everything together. You could also add some lettuce if you wanted to make it more of a salad, but I prefer to eat it as a hot bowl. It's a low-carb, high-protein meal that doesn't feel like health food and is nearly as good as the kind you can get at the nearby Mexican chain (cough, cough... Chipotle).

Vegetable & Black Bean Burrito Bowls:
For Jalapeno-Lime Dressing

  • In a blender or food processor, add a handful of fresh cilantro, 2 tbsp. orange juice, 2 tbsp. lime juice, 1 tbsp. minced jalapeño pepper, 1 tbsp. honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Blend until smooth, then drizzle in 1/4 c. canola oil and blend until emulsified.*

For Burrito Bowls
  • Heat a grill to high heat.
  • Toss an assortment of vegetables (I used 2 bell peppers, 2 poblano peppers, 2 ears of corn, 1 Japanese eggplant, 1 red onion, and 1 zucchini) with canola oil and a mixture of 2 tbsp. ground cumin, 1 tbsp. paprika, 1 tbsp. granulated garlic, 1 tbsp. chile powder, 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper.**
  • Grill vegetables until tender, then chop into bite-size pieces.
  • Divide 1 1/2 c. cooked brown rice into four bowls, top each with 1/2 c. cooked black beans,*** some of the grilled vegetables, 1 sliced avocado, and drizzle with the jalapeno-lime dressing.

Serves four
*Dressing can be made two days in advance and kept in the fridge in an airtight container.
**Or any taco seasoning that you like.
***I used this recipe.

Tuesday, September 10

Crispy Ground Beef Tacos

Sometimes there's nothing better than a crispy beef taco. As someone who is scared of deep frying, making homemade crispy taco shells is surprisingly easy and low-maintenance. These are filled with a mixture of seasoned ground beef, grated cheese, and guacamole but can easily be customized with whatever toppings you like best. It's a great meal to cook with others (someone frying tortillas, someone dicing toppings, someone cooking the meat) but comes together quickly either way. It's a bit of a treat, but you'll still feel way better after eating your own version rather than a greasy meal from a taco stand or Taco Bell.

Crispy Ground Beef Tacos:
  • Heat 1/2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add in 1/2 lb. lean ground beef and season with salt.
  • Add in 2 minced garlic cloves and cook, breaking up the meat, until brown and fat has rendered, about 4-6 minutes.
  • Add in 1 tbsp. tomato paste and stir into the meat.
  • Add in 1 tbsp. chile powder, 1 tbsp. paprika, 1/2 tbsp. cumin, and 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper.
  • Stir to combine, then deglaze the pan with 1/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth.*
  • Scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and cook until most of the liquid evaporates.
  • Meanwhile, hit 1" of canola oil in a deep skillet until very hot but not smoking.
  • Use tongs to submerge a corn tortilla into the oil, turn once, then fold over one side and fry until tortilla shells are crisp, about 3-4 minutes.**
  • Repeat creating 3 more tortilla shells.
  • To assemble the tacos, spoon some of the ground beef into tacos and top with desired toppings: grated cheese, salsa, lettuce, tomato, guacamole, etc.

Serves two-three
*Or low-sodium beef broth.
**Tortillas should bubble immediately when submerged in the oil.

Monday, September 9

Queso Fundido Dip

This cheesy dip is the perfect game day or fiesta appetizer

Queso Fundido Dip

Football season is back, which means that every Sunday until February is filled with watching the games, morning drinks, and all sorts of game day foods. This year my husband purchased NFL Sunday ticket, which allows us to stream all the games from home, and I couldn't be more thrilled to spend the day watching from our couch rather than at a crowded sports bar. I made some authentic-style queso dip (adapted from this recipe) with two kinds of melted cheese flavored by fresh tomato, onion, and jalapeño. It's so much better than melting down waxy processed cheese and just as easy.

Queso Fundido Dip:
  • Seed, core, and finely dice 1 jalapeño pepper, 1 medium-size tomato, and 1/2 small onion.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet and add in the vegetables.
  • Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and the onions are translucent.
  • Add in 2 tbsp. tequila* and scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Let most of the liquid evaporate, then stir in 1 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese and 1 c. grated mild cheddar cheese.
  • Reduce the heat to low and stir until the cheese has melted completely.
  • Sprinkle with a handful of minced cilantro.
  • Serve immediately with tortilla chips, or keep over very low heat until ready to serve.**

Serves two-four
*I used a silver/white tequila.
**If the dip cools too much after you serve it, just warm it over low heat for a few minutes. Or serve it in an insulated dish or fondue pot.

Friday, September 6

Pasta Shells with Corn, Bacon, & Chard

We always get an Indian summer in September and early October, and this year it came on strong with the hottest temperatures of the year gracing Los Angeles. It's odd to try and transition into fall during this heat, but it's impossible to ignore the signs: football games (skol Vikings!), kids heading back to school, and the appearance of pumpkin-everything at stores and coffee shops. I'm not ready to whip out my dutch oven for long braises and stews, but this pasta is a nice transition dish. Sweet summer corn and fatty, salty bacon are always a good pairing, but the chard keeps it from feeling too naughty. It's a simple meal that reheats well for leftovers, although I doubt you'll be able to save much since it goes quickly.

Pasta Shells with Corn, Bacon, & Chard:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1/2 lb. of small pasta shells until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, wash 1 bunch of rainbow chard* and remove the center ribs from the leaves. Stack the leaves and roll into a cigar, then thinly slice them into ribbons.
  • Add 4 slices of diced thick-cut bacon to a skillet over medium high heat.
  • Cook until bacon releases most of its fat and begins to brown, 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in a pinch of red chile flakes, the kernels from 2 ears of corn, and the chard.
  • Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until greens wilt.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 pasta cooking water.
  • Add the pasta and water to the skillet and reduce the heat to low.
  • Toss for 2-3 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed, then add in 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Divide onto plates and serve.

Serves two-three
*Or regular Swiss chard or a similar leafy green.

Thursday, September 5

Grilled Zucchini Salad

I've been on a zucchini craze lately. It's cheap, available everywhere, and always consistent - no unreliable differences in taste or texture like you can find with other summer produce like tomatoes or corn. It's great on the grill, and I find that if you slice it lengthwise into thin, long planks, it can be cooked directly on the grates without falling through. This simple salad is my favorite way to enjoy it and everyone who I've made it for raves about it. The grilled zucchini is really the star of the dish, but the fresh herbs and nutty Parmesan cheese enhance the flavor. It's great served warm, but it can easily hold up for a few hours (no soggy dressed greens to worry about) if you want to prepare it in advance of guests arriving.

Grilled Zucchini Salad:
For Dressing
  • Whisk together the juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard.
  • Slowly whisk in 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 
For Salad
  • Trim the ends off of 2-3 zucchini and slice into 1/4" thick lengthwise slices.
  • Brush the slices with canola oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Grill the zucchini over high heat for 6-8 minutes, turning once.
  • Arrange the zucchini on a platter and drizzle with the dressing.*
  • Sprinkle 2 thinly sliced scallions and a handful of fresh parsley leaves** on top.
  • Use a vegetable peeler to create 1/4 c. of large shavings of Parmesan cheese and sprinkle on top.
  • Salad can be served immediately or at room temperature.

Serves four (side dish)
*You probably won't need all the dressing. Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a few days.
**I pick the leaves off the stem but keep them whole.

Wednesday, September 4

Baked Heirloom Tomatoes

Usually I would say that heirloom tomatoes should be eaten raw, since their flavor and texture this time of year are pretty much perfect and only need a pinch of salt or a drizzle of olive oil to create a fantastic meal. But I've been spoiled by eating them every week for the last couple of months and was ready to experiment. These baked tomatoes are very simple but make a beautiful side dish or light vegetarian meal. The tomatoes stay mostly whole and are topped with crunchy, cheesy breadcrumbs that bake into the fruit and get nice and browned on top. You can certainly use any type of tomato you like as long as it's ripe and flavorful - they still retain their shape and taste after baking so use the best that you can get.

Baked Parmesan-Panko Heirloom Tomatoes:
  • Combine 1 c. panko breadcrumbs, 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tbsp. herbs de Provence,* and 2 tbsp. olive oil in a bowl.
  • Slice the tops off of 2 large heirloom tomatoes and lightly squeeze out some of the seeds.
  • Place the tomatoes in a small baking dish and pack the breadcrumb mixture on top of each tomato.
  • Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and bake in a 375F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
  • Sprinkle with fresh parsley, cut in half (if desired), and serve.

Serves four (side dish)
*Or any herb blend, such as oregano, parsley, thyme and basil.

Tuesday, September 3

Grilled Summer Vegetable Tacos

In the past few weeks, we've moved into a new place, took a trip to Colorado, and celebrated my birthday. Combined with the new job and recent marriage, this has been the craziest and busiest summer of my life. I was originally dreading the move (packing up all your belongings and pets and transporting them to a new and unfamiliar home is one of the hardest things a person can do), but we're finally starting to settle in and are really happy with our new upgraded digs. Our favorite space is the private back patio, a giant (by Santa Monica standards) enclosed brick yard complete with our very own lemon tree. My husband bought a new fancy grill the moment we signed the lease and we've been making the most of these remaining summer nights by cooking and eating almost every dinner outside. These vegetable tacos were a surprise hit and utilize some of the best summer vegetables left at the farmers market - feel free to substitute or add any of your favorites. Leftover veggies make an easy side dish or healthy lunch for the rest of the week.

Grilled Summer Vegetable Tacos:
  • Prepare your vegetables: slice 3 zucchini in half lengthwise, pull the stems off of 3 portabello mushrooms, remove the husk and silks from 3 ears of corn, slice 1 avocado in half and remove the pit, and thickly slice a red onion into rings.
  • Meanwhile, combine 1 tbsp. cumin, 1 tbsp. minced oregano, 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tbsp. chile powder, 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper.*
  • Rub all the vegetables, including 1 whole red bell pepper and 3 whole hatch green chiles** with canola oil and sprinkle with the spice mixture.
  • Grill the vegetables over high heat - some will take longer to cook than others. Grill the peppers and chiles until the skin is completely black, turning to get all sides, about 8 minutes total. Grill the remaining vegetables for 3-4 minutes a side, or until softened and charred in some places.
  • Rub the black skin off the peppers and chiles and remove the stems and seeds. Take the kernels off the ears of corn. Chop all the vegetables into bite size pieces.
  • Grill 8 corn tortillas for 20 seconds per side, or until pliable.
  • Fill the tortillas with the vegetable mixture and top each taco with a sprinkle of grated Monterey Jack cheese.

Serves four
*Or use any Mexican seasoning blend or taco/fajita seasoning that you like.
**If you can't find fresh hatch chiles, any semi-spicy chile will work.