Wednesday, July 31

Bacon, Egg & Cheddar Sandwiches

My husband and I are usually pretty lazy on the weekends and end up going out for breakfast most of the time. I generally opt for some sort of breakfast sandwich, but there's really no need to go out when they're so easy to make at home. Lately I've been perfecting this recipe and have settled on my ultimate sandwich: sourdough roll, melty cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, slightly runny egg, and peppery arugula. We ate these on both Saturday and Sunday and can't wait to make them again this weekend. And if we're really having a craving, there's no reason that this can't make a quick weeknight dinner.

Bacon, Egg & Cheddar Sandwiches:
  • Place a baking rack over a sheet pan and lay 4 slices of bacon on the rack in an even layer.
  • Cook bacon in a 400F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until crispy.
  • Split 2 sandwich rolls* in half and toast until golden brown.
  • Top each side of the rolls with a slice of cheddar cheese and divide the bacon onto the bottom half of each roll.
  • Place rolls back in the oven to let the cheese melt while you fry the eggs.
  • Melt a little butter in a skillet and fry 4 eggs until your desired doneness. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place two eggs on top of each half with the bacon, then top the eggs with a dash of hot sauce a handful of arugula.
  • Place the top half of the roll on each sandwich and enjoy.

Serves two

Thursday, July 25

Grilled Swordfish with Eggplant-Pepper Salad

I'm lucky enough to live a couple miles from the beach and try to cook fresh seafood as much as possible. That said, I usually stick to a few of my favorite types of fish (salmon, trout, shellfish) and don't branch out that much from my go-to's. This recipe is a break from the norm and now I'm officially hooked on swordfish. The dish is actually based on something I saw Bobby Flay make on TV, but I couldn't find his recipe so I just winged it from memory. The fish has a great meaty texture and mild flavor that makes it perfect for the grill and the roasted eggplant and pepper salad adds lots of flavor and texture. It's a fresh, healthy meal that will make you feel like you're vacationing in the Mediterranean.

Grilled Swordfish with Eggplant-Pepper Salad:
  • Slice 1 eggplant and half of an onion into 1/2" thick slices and brush with canola oil.
  • Rub 1 bell pepper with canola oil.
  • Place vegetables on a hot grill* for 4-6 minutes per side, or until nicely charred and soft.
  • Dice all the vegetables together into bite-size chunks and toss in a bowl with 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 c. arugula leaves, 1 tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1 tbsp. chopped basil, salt, and pepper.
  • Stir salad together and taste for seasoning. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, brush a 1 lb. swordfish steak with canola oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Cook fish on a hot grill for 5 minutes per side** and then top with the eggplant and pepper salad.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves two
*You can also do this under a broiler or on a grill pan.
**Or until just cooked through. I like to rotate the fish at a 45 degree angle on each side to get restaurant-style crosshatch patterns.

Wednesday, July 24

Corn & Avocado Salad with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing

This is an easy, flavorful summer salad that works well for a quick side dish or as a light meal. I like to keep a few ears of leftover grilled corn on hand so that I can throw together this salad in under five minutes at any time. Just toss the kernels with peppery arugula leaves, buttery avocado, and a spicy-sweet jalapeƱo-lime dressing. The Mexican flavors are perfect alongside grilled carne asada or chicken and keep me from getting into a summer salad rut.

Corn, Arugula, & Avocado Salad with Jalapeno-Lime Dressing:
For Dressing
  • Combine 1/2 minced jalapeno pepper* with the juice of 1 large lime and 1 tsp. honey.
  • Whisk until smooth, then slowly whisk in 2-3 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.**
For Salad
  • Brush 1 ear of corn with canola oil and season with salt.
  • Grill over a hot grill for 2-3 minutes per side, turning once.
  • Let corn cool slightly, then remove the kernels and place in a bowl.
  • Add in 4 oz. baby arugula, 1 diced avocado,*** and toss with the dressing.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately.
Serves two-three (side dish)
*I removed the seeds.
**Dressing can be made a few days in advance and kept in the fridge.
***I squeeze a little extra lime juice directly on the avocado to keep it from browning.

Tuesday, July 23

Corn, Arugula, & Mascarpone Orecchiette

The great thing about summer is that I always seem to have good produce on hand that lends itself nicely to simple, impromptu meals. I buy arugula all year round at our farmers market for easy side salads through the week, and sweet corn is a dirt cheap staple this time of year. This pasta uses both and is bound together with a creamy sauce made from mascarpone cheese. The orecchiette pasta act like little cups that hold the sauce and ingredients together, so each bite is full of flavor and texture. It's a light and easy meal that's perfect for a warm summer night and leftovers taste even better the next day.

Corn, Arugula, & Mascarpone Orecchiette Pasta:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, and cook 1 lb. of orecchiette pasta according to package instructions.
  • Meanwhile, melt 1 tbsp. butter in a skillet and add in 1/2 diced onion and 1/2 diced jalapeno pepper.
  • Cook for 5 minutes, or until softened, then add in 2 cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in the kernels from 3 ears of corn and cook for another few minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 c. pasta cooking liquid.
  • Add the pasta to the skillet with the corn, along with 8 oz. mascarpone cheese, most of the pasta cooking water, a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Stir until the cheese melts and the sauce thickens, then stir in 3 oz. baby arugula until lightly wilted.
  • Check for seasoning, then divide onto plates and serve.

Serves four-five

Monday, July 22

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Making your own cheese might sound like a really difficult job, but creating your own homemade ricotta couldn't be simpler. It's a great way to use up extra milk (as a 2% milk drinker, I never know what to do with leftover whole milk I buy for certain recipes) and turns out so much lighter and creamier than the tubs of ricotta you find at the supermarket. Just dump some dairy and vinegar into a pot and strain the cheese until the whey separates from the curds. The cheese will keep, covered, for several days in the fridge and can be used in anything: as a spread on crostini, in pasta dishes, or on a white pizza (I used some on a variation of this recipe).

Homemade Ricotta Cheese:

  • Combine 2 c. whole milk, 1 c. heavy cream, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt in a pot.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in 1 1/2 tbsp. vinegar.*
  • Let mixture sit for a few minutes, until it curdles and turns lumpy.**
  • Line a fine mesh strainer with two layers of damp cheesecloth, then pour the mixture through the strainer.
  • Let sit for 30 minutes, or until all the whey has drained and just the cheese remains.
  • Cover and refrigerate.

Makes ~1 cup of cheese
*Any white vinegar will work. I used rice wine vinegar because that was all I had.
**This looks kind of gross, but its just the curds separating from the whey.

Thursday, July 18

White Peach Upside-Down Pancakes

Here's another meal that I made with some of the peaches my friend dropped by my house the other week. Based off a recipe in my Smitten Kitchen cookbook, fluffy pancakes get topped with slices of peaches that caramelize in the pan while they cook. The pancake batter uses sour cream, which adds a nice tang that complements the sweet white peaches really well. It's a great way to incorporate summer stone fruits into your breakfast.

White Peach Upside-Down Pancakes:
  • Whisk together 1 egg, 1 c. sour cream, 2 tbsp. sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract in a bowl.
  • In another bowl, sift together 3/4 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. salt.
  • Gently stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined.*
  • Meanwhile, melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Spoon a few tbsp. of batter into the pan for each pancake, then top each mound of batter with a thin slice of white peach.**
  • Cook for 3 minutes, or until top of the batter forms small bubbles and bottom of the pancake is lightly golden.
  • Flip and cook pancake for another 3-4 minutes, or until cooked through and peach is lightly caramelized.
  • Stack pancakes to keep warm, then repeat with remaining batter.
  • Divide pancakes onto plates and serve with maple syrup and powdered sugar.

Serves four
*Do not overmix or the pancakes won't be light and fluffy.
**My peaches weren't very big, so I ended up using 2 or 3 peaches total.

Wednesday, July 17

Bay Shrimp Gratin

I love shrimp and am a sucker for anything with a crispy breadcrumb topping, so when I came across this recipe on Food52 it went to the top of my list. Like any gratin or casserole, all the ingredients get dumped into the same baking dish and then roasted in the oven, making this a super low maintenance and easy dish to prepare in advance of guests arriving. This gratin is mostly made up of shrimp and mushrooms, and the earthiness of the mushrooms works really well with the sweet succulent seafood. I find that tiny bay shrimp are perfect for this dish since they cook quickly and you don't need to peel the tails off, although you could also cut larger shrimp into bite-size pieces and use that instead. It's such a classic French recipe and it will make you look effortlessly chic to anyone you serve it to.

Bay Shrimp Gratin:
  • Combine 3/4 lb. bay shrimp,*  3 thinly sliced scallions, 8 minced mushrooms (stems removed), and a large pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl.
  • Stir in 2 tbsp. of white wine and place in a baking dish.
  • Meanwhile, combine 2/3 c. panko breadcrumbs, 3 tbsp. of melted butter, 1 tbsp. minced parsley, and 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the shrimp and bake in a 400F oven for 15 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked through and topping is golden brown.

Serves two-three
*If you can't find bay shrimp, you can cut regular shrimp into bite-size pieces.

Tuesday, July 16

Creamed Kale

Kale is the poster child of healthy organic cooking, but this creamed version is not too virtuous. I'm not really a big fan of creamed spinach, which I think gets mushy, but kale is a great alternative because it holds a nice texture even after cooking down. The cream and Parmesan cheese coats the kale leaves and forms a rich sauce and I add lots of garlic and shallots to enhance the flavor. It couldn't be simpler to make and only requires a few ingredients, making it the perfect low maintenance side dish for a steak dinner.

Creamed Kale:
  • Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a large skillet and add in 2 minced shallots and 3 cloves of minced garlic.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until vegetables are softened but not brown.
  • Add in 1 head of wash, chopped kale* and cook for another few minutes, or until the leaves wilt.
  • Add in 1/2 c. heavy cream and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until cream has thickened and kale has reduced in size.
  • Add in 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese and check for seasoning.
  • Cover and keep warm until serving.

Serves two-four (side dish)
*Remove the center ribs, which can be tough.

Monday, July 15

Cherrium Almond Tart

I discovered a new fruit a few weeks ago: cherriums. They are a cross between cherries and plums and look like small plums but with a small cherry-sized pit. We bought a bagful at our farmer's market and reserved some for this simple free-form tart. I almost always use Trader Joe's frozen pie crust (it has a strong cult following among bakers) because I think it's just as good as homemade crust, but feel free to use your own recipe or any store-bought crust you like. The crust is just a vessel for holding the fruit, which turns soft and jam-like. The almonds add a nice crunch and flavor that really takes this over the top. I think it's a must to serve the tart a la mode, but it's really good either way.

Cherrium Almond Tart:
  • Combine 2 c. halved and pitted cherriums with 1 tsp. sugar and let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  • Roll out 1 defrosted pie dough to 1/4" thick and place on a lined baking sheet.
  • Meanwhile, combine 2 tbsp. cold butter with 1/2 c. sugar, 1/3 c. chopped almonds, 2 tbsp. flour, and a pinch of salt until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
  • Dump the cherriums into the middle of the pie dough, then sprinkle with the almond topping.
  • Fold the edges of the dough inward to form a border and crimp to secure.
  • Bake the tart in a 375F oven for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden and fruit is bubbling.
  • Let cool slightly, then cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Serves six-eight

Friday, July 12

Grilled Flank Steak with Tomato Relish

This is yet another recipe featuring summer's delicious baby tomatoes. I leave them raw and mix with basil, shallot, and balsamic before spooning the mixture on top of grilled steak. The warm sliced beef absorbs all the delicious tomato flavor and makes for a killer family-style dish. Any leftover relish can also be spooned on top of toasted bread for an easy bruschetta. It's the perfect thing for an al fresco dinner.

Grilled Flank Steak with Tomato Relish:
  • Halve 1 pt. of baby tomatoes and place in a bowl.
  • Add in 1 minced shallot, 2 tbsp. chiffonade basil,* a pinch of salt and pepper, 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, and 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar.
  • Set tomato relish aside and pre-heat a grill to high.
  • Season 1 lb. flank steak with salt and pepper and let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes while the grill heats.
  • Cook steak for 3-4 minutes per side, then remove and let rest on a covered plate for 10-15 minutes.
  • Slice the steak and spoon the tomato relish on top.

Serves two-three
*To chiffonade basil: stack the leaves on top of each other, roll up like a cigar, and slice to form ribbons.

Thursday, July 11

Whole Wheat Corn & Shishito Pepper Pizza

I pick up a few ears of corn every week at the farmers market and have been running out of new things to make until I remembered this recipe I saw on Sprouted Kitchen. This is my take on the idea, which features roasted shishito peppers, caramelized onions, fresh corn, and peppery arugula. I updated my basic pizza dough recipe to one with some whole wheat flour, which adds some extra flavor and health benefits to the dish. Serve it with a green salad and you have the perfect summer dinner.

Whole Wheat Corn & Shishito Pepper Pizza:
For Dough
  • Combine 1/2 c. warm water* with 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast and let sit for 5 minutes, or until bubbles form.
  • Add in 1 c. flour and 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and 1 tsp. salt.
  • Stir to combine, then dump onto a floured surface and knead into a ball.
  • Place dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
  • Let dough sit in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for 8 hours.
For Pizza
  • Toss 1 tbsp. canola oil with 6-8 shishito peppers and roast in a 425F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and charred in some area.
  • Let peppers cool slightly, then remove the stems and seeds and shred into ribbons.**
  • Roll out the dough as thinly as possible on a floured surface and transfer to a baking sheet.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in a small skillet and add in 1 thinly sliced onion.
  • Cook onion for 10 minutes, or until softened and starting to caramelize.
  • Spread 2 tbsp. of mascarpone cheese* on the dough, then sprinkle with the onions and peppers.
  • Top with the kernels from 1 ear of corn, then dot with 4 oz. of crumbled goat cheese.
  • Bake pizza in a 425F oven for 15 minutes, or until crust is golden.
  • Sprinkle 1 c. baby arugula on top and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Slice into wedges and serve.

Serves two-four
*Around 100 degrees or body temperature.
**Can be done a few days in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to use.

Wednesday, July 10

Grilled Peach, Burrata, & Prosciutto Salad

This summery salad will have you dreaming of an Italian vacation

My friend’s family owns and operates an amazing farm that sells fruit at the farmer’s markets in L.A. and Santa Barbara. I previously featured their apples here, but their summer stone fruits are also incredible. She dropped off a ton of peaches and plums for us last week and I put them to work in breakfasts, desserts, and this salad, which is based off something I had at Gjelina last summer. The peaches caramelize and intensify on the grill and are a great pairing with the salty prosciutto, peppery arugula, and creamy cheese. It's a vibrant taste of summer that's great for sharing as an appetizer or side dish, or on its own as a light meal.

More Peach Recipes:
- Grilled Pork Chops & Peaches
- Easy Peach Tart
- Grilled Peach & Blue Cheese Salad

Grilled Peach, Burrata, & Prosciutto Salad:
  • Slice 3-4 peaches into wedges and lightly brush with canola oil.
  • Cook peaches on a hot grill for 2-3 minutes a side, or until they are caramelized but still hold their shape.
  • Arrange peaches on a platter and rip apart a large ball of burrata cheese and arrange among the peaches.
  • Top the salad with 4-5 thin slices of prosciutto and sprinkle with 1 1/2 c. wild arugula.
  • Season salad with salt and pepper and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Serves two (main course)
Serves four (appetizer or side dish)

Wednesday, July 3

Roasted Pepper, Quinoa, & Avocado Tacos

Occasionally my husband will tease me for making healthy hippie food (what do you expect when the only places I’ve ever lived are Southern California and Boulder, Colorado?) and this recipe is a prime example. But even though these tacos are vegetarian and contain quinoa, they are actually really tasty. I’ve become obsessed with the not-too-spicy shishito peppers at our famers market, which get soft and smoky when they roast in the oven. Place them in a tortilla and add some grains for body, some buttery avocado for richness, and some salty cotija cheese and it’s a healthy, balanced meal that’s not lacking in flavor.

Roasted Pepper, Quinoa, & Avocado Tacos:
  • Combine 1 c. quinoa with 2 c. cold water, add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil in a small pot.
  • Lower to simmer, cover the pot with a lid, and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until tender.
  • Toss 12 shishito peppers* with 1 1/2 tbsp. canola oil and season with salt.
  • Roast in a 400F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until skin is charred in some areas and peppers are soft.
  • Let cool slightly, then pull off the stems and scrape out most of the seeds.
  • Divide peppers among 4 warm whole wheat tortillas, add in a few slices of avocado, a scoop of quinoa, and some cotija cheese.**

Serves two
*Or any mild peppers.
**Can substitute for feta. Or use any cheese or toppings that you like.

Tuesday, July 2

Baby Caprese Salad

We've been eating summer tomatoes (grapes, cherries, and heirlooms) every week since they've been showing up in the farmers market. A caprese salad is a classic choice (see my ultimate recipe here), but this slightly-deconstructed baby version is even easier to eat, pack, and enjoy - plus, it's adorable. Instead of basil, I made a flavorful mixed herb and walnut pesto to toss the tomatoes and mozzarella in. I added some extra greens for body, but even some pasta or orzo would be great. It will keep for a few days in the fridge, making this a great leftover lunch.

Baby Caprese Salad:
  • Combine 2 c. loosely packed basil leaves, 1 handful* chopped chives, and 1/2 c. loosely packed parsley leaves in a blender.
  • Add in 1/3 c. toasted chopped walnuts, 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 1 pinch of red chili flakes, and a large pinch of salt.
  • Puree until smooth, adding in more olive oil as necessary to form a smooth paste.
  • Add in 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese and check for seasoning.**
  • Halve 1 pint of grape tomatoes and toss with 1 c. baby mozzarella balls*** and a few spoonfuls of the pesto.
  • Toss to combine, then add in a handful of arugula and gently toss once more.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.****

Serves two-four (side dish)
*About 8-10 chives.
**Pesto can be made a few days in advances, covered with plastic wrap, and kept in the fridge.
***I used perline but haved bocconcini or diced water mozzarella also works.
****Salad can be eaten cold or at room temperature and will keep in the fridge for a day.