Monday, December 29

Paloma Cocktails

Like a margarita, but with grapefruit juice

Paloma Cocktail Recipe Casa Dragones

Every Christmas, my parents leave us a gift basket full of specialty foods and ingredients from Santa. It's always one of my favorite gifts since I never know what's going to be in it and they do a great job of adding in unusual items and surprises. This year, the biggest hit was a bottle of tequila from Casa Dragones, a new small-batch producer that my mom found after it was listed as one of Oprah's favorite things. The bottle looks beautiful on our bar and the tequila is nice and smooth. I put some of it to use in these refreshing paloma cocktails, which are like margaritas but with grapefruit juice instead of lime juice. Served cold, with a little effervescence from a splash of club soda, it's a super light and crushable cocktail that will take off the winter chill. I mix it up by rimming the glasses with a 50/50 split of sugar and salt for extra flavor and a festive vibe.

Related Recipes:
- Jalapeño Margaritas
- Peach & Red Raspberry Sangria
- Kumquatinis

Paloma Cocktails:
  • Rub the rim of 4 glasses with a wedge of fresh grapefruit.
  • Mix together 1 tbsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. kosher salt and shake into an even layer on a plate.
  • Dip the glasses into the sugar-salt to coat the rims. Set aside.
  • Combine 1 c. fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, 3 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice, and 3 tsp. sugar in a pitcher and stir until sugar dissolves.
  • Stir 2/3 c. tequila blanco into the juice mixture.
  • Fill the glasses with ice, then pour in the cocktails. Finish each drink with a splash of club soda.

Serves four

Tuesday, December 23

Fluffy Pancakes

Good, fluffy, old-fashioned flapjacks

Huckleberry Cookbook Fluffy Pancakes

My husband is good at reminding me that sometimes classic, simple dishes are the best. In this case, I was running some new fancy breakfast recipes by him but the only thing that he really wanted me to make was a stack of good old-fashioned pancakes with a side of bacon. These pancakes are a family recipe that Zoe shared in her Huckleberry cookbook and they are exactly what you'd expect a classic pancake to be. The flapjacks are tender and fluffy and cooked on a buttered griddle until lightly golden. Stack them high and serve with a generous pat of butter and warm maple syrup for the full experience. As a bonus, you probably already have all the ingredients to cook them in your house right now, which is ideal since the last thing anyone wants to do before making weekend breakfast is to run to the grocery store.

More Pancakes & Waffle Recipes:
- Dutch Baby Pancake with Sautéed Apples
- Lazy Weekend Waffles
- Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Fluffy Pancakes:
  • In a large bowl, whisk together 2 c. all-purpose flour, 1 tbsp. baking powder, 4 tsp. sugar, and 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt.
  • Whisk in 2 c. milk, 4 egg yolks, 1 c. melted butter, and 1 1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract until combined.
  • Using an electric mixer, whip 4 egg whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
  • Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium high heat for a few minutes, then grease with butter or non-stick spray.
  • Drop 1/2 c. fulls of batter on the griddle and cook for a couple minutes, or until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancakes. Flip and cook for a another minute.
  • Stack the pancakes on a plate to keep warm and repeat with remaining batter.
  • Serve with maple syrup.

Serves four

Monday, December 22

Pork & Guajillo Chile Mole Stew

Pork simmered in a mildly spicy guajillo chile mole sauce

Canal House Pork Stewed in Guajillo Chile Mole

Now that it's officially winter, I'm all about creating rich, hearty stews and braises in my dutch oven. This recipe from the Canal House is just the thing to make on a cold day when you have a few hours to dedicate to slow-coooking. If you've never made mole before, this is a great version to try because it's fairly quick and doesn't require too many ingredients. The base of the mole is dried guajillo chiles, which get reconstituted in chicken broth and blended with almonds, raisins, and spices into a thick paste. As the mole and pork simmer together, the flavors intensify and the sauce thickens to form a rich gravy around the tender chunks of pork. Serve it with some cornbread on the side for a satisfying winter meal.

Related Recipes:
- Pork Carnitas
- White Chicken Chili
- Pork Green Chili

Pork & Guajillo Chile Mole Stew:
- 3 lb. boneless pork butt, trimmed of large pieces of fat, cut into 1" cubes,
- 3-4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- 6 dried guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp. canola oil
- 1/2 c. raisins
- 1/3 c. blanched almonds
- 1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- fresh cilantro and a lime, to garnish

  • Heat a dry skillet over medium high heat and toast the guajillo chiles for 30-60 seconds.
  • Remove the chiles to a bowl and pour 1 c. hot chicken broth on top. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until the chiles are soft and pliable.
  • In the same skillet, toast the almonds for a minute until golden brown, then place in a food processor with the salt, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and peppercorns.
  • Grind until everything forms a very fine powder.
  • Add in the chiles and their soaking liquid and the raisins and puree until smooth.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. canola oil in the same skillet over medium high heat. Add in the guajillo chile mole and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until it turns one shade darker.
  • Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tbsp. canola oil in a large pot or dutch oven over high heat.
  • Add in half the pork, season with salt and pepper, and sear until brown on the outside, about 5 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate and repeat with the other half of the meat.
  • Add the onion to the pot and stir, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the onions are soft.
  • Add the pork and any accumulated juices from the plate, the mole, and 2 c. chicken broth to the pot with the onions and stir to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer over, cover with a lid, and cook over low heat for 2 - 2 1/2 hours (or until pork is tender), stirring occasionally.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh cilantro and a wedge of lime.

Serves four

Wednesday, December 17

Winter Caesar Salad

A wintery-spin on a classic caesar with escarole, homemade croutons, and anchovy dressing

AOC Escarole Salad with Anchovy Dressing

I'm not ashamed to admit that a classic caesar salad is still probably my favorite salad of all time (or at least tied with another old-school favorite, the wedge). While definitely not the most virtuous salad out there, nor the most exciting, there is something so nostalgic about a perfect caesar. It's all about the dressing, which should be generously coating the leaves of lettuce, along with crunchy croutons and a liberal amount of grated parmesan cheese. This version, adapted from a recipe in the A.O.C. Cookbook, uses escarole for a slightly bitter, wintery take on the classic. You can certainly use a more standard lettuce, like romaine, but I like the flavor and texture of escarole, especially if you make it this time of year. You can make a big batch of hand-torn croutons and dressing in advance, keep washed and dried greens in a paper towel-lined bag in the fridge, and then make this salad as a quick side to meals all week long.

Related Recipes:
- Tricolore Salad with Parmesan Anchovy Dressing
- Chicken Bacon Caesar Sandwich
- Mixed Greens & Fennel with Fried Capers & Anchovy Dressing

Escarole Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons & Anchovy Dressing:
For Dressing
  • Combine 1 minced garlic clove, 2 anchovy fillets, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt in a mortar and pestle and mash into in a paste. 
  • Stir in 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and 1/2 tbsp. dijon mustard.
  • Slowly whisk in 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil until emulsified.
For Salad
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Tear 1/2 baguette into bite size pieces, then toss on a baking sheet with 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil and a pinch of salt and toss to combine.
  • Spread the croutons into a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy. Let cool.
  • Remove the core from 1 large head of escarole, wash and dry the leaves, and chop or tear into bite-size pieces.
  • Place the escarole in a large bowl with the croutons, 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese, and some of the dressing.
  • Toss to combine, then season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves three-four (side dish)

Tuesday, December 16

Baked Cranberry Brie in Puff Pastry

A festive and easy appetizer for the holidays

Baked Brie En Croute with Cranberries

Baked brie is such a crowd-pleasing appetizer, and this version with cranberry sauce is super festive for the holidays. In college, one of my roommates would always make a version of this dish for our Christmas party and I remember all of us girls huddling around the plate as soon as it came out of the oven. The puff pastry forms a flakey crust around the molten brie, which mixes with the sweet-tart cranberry sauce as it bakes. When you cut it open, the cheese oozes out and is perfect to spread onto a cracker, while the edge pieces of pastry are nice bites on their own. The best part of this dish is how simple it is - you only need a few ingredients and less than five minutes to prep it. You can even assemble the brie package earlier in the day and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to put it in the oven. It's a no-fuss dish that looks impressive and that everyone will love.

Note: You can swap out the brie with another similar cheese, such as camembert.

Related Recipes:
- Poached Cherries with Goat Cheese
- Baked Honey & Walnut Brie
- Great Grandmother's Cheeseball

Baked Cranberry Brie in Puff Pastry:
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Roll out 1 sheet of de-frosted puff pastry to 1/4"-1/8" thick.
  • Place one 8 oz. wheel of brie cheese in the middle of the pastry, then spread 1/4 c. of cranberry sauce* on top of the cheese.
  • Fold the ends of the pastry over the cheese and crimp to secure it in a little package. Trim extra pastry if needed.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and a splash of water. Brush a little of the egg wash over the pastry.
  • Bake the cheese in a baking dish for 30-35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.
  • Let cool slightly, then serve with crackers, sliced fruit, etc.

Serves six-ten (appetizer)
*I used a chunky fresh cranberry sauce that gave it some texture.

Wednesday, December 10

Short Rib Pappardelle with Butter & Parsley

Turn leftover short ribs into a comforting bowl of pasta with butter, herbs, and parmesan cheese

Short Rib Pasta with Butter and Parsley

If you're making braised short ribs (or any braised beef, for that matter) for a holiday celebration, make sure to make extra so you can turn the leftovers into this quick and comforting pasta. It's easy to get burnt out on weeknight cooking with all the big events going on in December, but making a little extra food for your parties can ensure that you have meals for the next nights covered. This pasta is a perfect way to use up leftover meat and can be cooked in the amount of time it takes to boil water and cook the noodles. The combination of tender braised short ribs, buttered noodles, salty parmesan, and fresh parsley is a decadent meal that won't feel like eating leftovers. It's a great way to indulge over the holidays while still saving time and money.

Related Recipes:
- Traditional Bolognese
- Short Rib & Spinach Lasagna
- Slow-Roasted Short Ribs with Horseradish Gremolata

Short Rib Pappardelle with Butter & Parsley:
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and add in 8 oz. pappardelle pasta.
  • Meanwhile, shred 1/2 lb. braised short ribs into bite-size pieces.
  • Add the meat to a small skillet with a 1-2 tbsp. water and a pinch of salt and pepper (if needed) gently heat until warm.
  • Cook the pasta according to package instructions and then drain, reserving 1/2 c. pasta cooking liquid.
  • Return the pasta to the pot over low heat with 2 tbsp. salted butter, some of the pasta cooking water, and a few grinds of black pepper.
  • Toss until the butter melts and forms a sauce, then sprinkle with 1/4 c. chopped parsley and 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese.
  • Add in the short ribs and toss once more, then divide into bowls and sprinkle with a little more parmesan.

Serves two-three

Tuesday, December 9

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Roasting the shrimp in the oven puts a little twist on the classic shrimp cocktail

Barefoot Contessa Roasted Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp cocktail has been a popular appetizer for decades and is guaranteed to get eaten at just about any party. Typically, shrimp cocktail consists of poached shrimp that has been chilled and is served alongside a red ketchup-based cocktail sauce. This recipe is an updated version based on one from the Barefoot Contessa and calls for roasting the shrimp in the oven and serving it warm or room temperature. The roasted shrimp are not only more delicious than the cold poached shrimp, but they're even easier to prepare: just toss the shrimp with a little oil, salt, and pepper, spread onto a sheet pan, and cook in the oven for about eight minutes. The high heat helps to bring out the shrimp's sweetness for juicy shrimp that have much more flavorful than the cold, dry shrimp you find on some seafood platters. The cocktail sauce can be prepared up to a day in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to serve. Arrange everything on a platter and serve with a couple lemon wedges for an inviting appetizer that's perfect for your next party.

More Shrimp Recipes:
- Shrimp with Three-Herb Chimichurri
- Green Gazpacho with Chile-Rubbed Shrimp
- Bay Shrimp Gratin

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail:
For Cocktail Sauce
  • Combine 1 c. ketchup, 2 tbsp. prepared horseradish, 1 tsp. worcestershire sauce, and several dashes of hot sauce in a bowl.*
For Shrimp
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • On a large rimmed baking sheet, combine 2 lb. peeled and de-veined shrimp,** 2 tbsp. olive oil, and a large pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Roast the shrimp for 8-9 minutes, or until pink and opaque.
  • Let shrimp cool slightly, then arrange on a platter and serve with cocktail sauce and slices of lemon.

Serves eight-twelve (appetizer)
*I used Texas Pete.
**I used medium-sized shrimp, about 15-18 per lb.

Monday, December 8

Prosciutto-Wrapped Truffled Breadsticks

Thin breadsticks dipped in truffle butter and wrapped in prosciutto

Mozza Cookbook Prosciutto Wrapped Breadsticks

Maybe because we are staying local for Christmas this year or because we got a taste of a white Christmas when we were in snowy Minnesota last week, but I'm really feeling the holiday spirit this year.  We got a big tree, decked out the rest of our house, and invited friends over for a party last weekend. We didn't have enough seating to do a sit-down dinner, so we transformed our dining table into a buffet and had a bunch of finger foods for people to graze on all night. These breadsticks from
The Mozza Cookbook were one of the most popular dishes and they are so easy to make. Store-bought grissini are broken in half, dipped in truffled-butter, and then wrapped in thinly-sliced prosciutto. They look beautiful stacked on a platter and are a fun alternative to a charcuterie plate.

Related Recipes:
- Parmesan-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates
- Prosciutto & Melon Kabobs
- Parmesan & Black Pepper Crackers

Prosciutto-Wrapped Truffled Breadsticks:
- 20 grissini or thin breadsticks, snapped in half
- 6 tbsp. soft butter
- 1/2 tsp. truffle salt
- 20 paper-thin slices of prosciutto, ripped in half

  • In a small bowl, mix the butter and truffle salt together.
  • Roll/dip the snapped end of a breadstick in the butter and then loosely wrap in prosciutto.
  • Repeat with remaining breadsticks.

Makes forty breadsticks

Wednesday, December 3

Lemongrass Pork Meatball & Quinoa Bowl

Vietnamese-style pork meatballs with quinoa, fresh veggies, and a spicy vinaigrette

Lemongrass Pork Meatball and Quinoa Bowl

This winter is all about bowl foods and this Vietnamese-inspired meatball number is our new favorite. The meatballs are heavily flavored with Asian ingredients like lemongrass, fish sauce, and scallions, and then bake until tender and juicy. They would be great on their own as an appetizer, but the combination of meatballs with quinoa, crunchy raw veggies, and nuoc mam (spicy fish sauce vinaigrette) is a complete and well-balanced meal. I absolutely love the sweet, spicy, salty, and acidic dressing and serve it alongside the bowls so it can be drizzled on each bite and soak into the meatballs and quinoa. If quinoa isn't your thing, you can switch it up and use noodles or rice instead. Same goes with the veggies, which can be customized to whatever you like or need to use up from your fridge. I'm pretty sure you can even swap the ground pork for chicken or beef and it would still taste great. Leftovers held up well (everything packaged separately and then assembled after the meatballs and quinoa were reheated) for two days.

Related Recipes:
- Roasted Winter Vegetable & Quinoa Bowl
- Turkey Ricotta Meatballs
- Vegetable Burrito Bowl

Lemongrass Pork Meatball & Quinoa Bowl with Nuoc Mam Vinaigrette:
For Vinaigrette
- 1 Thai chile*
- 1 clove garlic
- 3/4 c. warm water
- 2 1/2 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1/2 lime, juiced

For Meatballs
- 1 lb. ground pork
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 onion, finely minced
- 1/4 c. scallions, thinly sliced
- 3 tbsp. lemongrass, finely grated or minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1/2 tbsp. sugar
- pinch of pepper

For Bowl
- 2 c. cooked quinoa
- 1 c. carrots, cut into matchsticks
- 2 c. loosely-packed greens, such as mizuna or tatsoi

For Vinaigrette
  • Grind the chile, garlic, and sugar together into a paste in a mortar and pestle or food processor.
  • Whisk in the water, fish sauce, and lime juice until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Store in the fridge until serving, up to three days. Stir before using.
For Meatballs
  • Preheat the oven to 375F.
  • Combine the egg, panko, onion, scallions, lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper in a large bowl.
  • Add in the ground pork and mix until well combined.
  • Form the pork into 1" balls and arrange on a baking sheet.
  • Bake the meatballs for 25 minutes, or until just cooked through.
For Bowl
  • Divide the quinoa among four bowls and top with meatballs, greens, and carrots.
  • Drizzle with nuoc mam and serve extra on the side.

Serves four
*Or you can use a serrano or jalapeño for less spice.

Monday, December 1

Spaghetti with Tomato, Guanciale, & Chile

A favorite recipe from Tosca Cafe in San Francisco

Bucatini with Tomato, Guanciale, and Chile

I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago for work and had a chance to meet up with a good friend for dinner at the recently re-done restaurant, Tosca. Formerly a bar with a colorful reputation, Tosca has been re-imagined as a cozy Italian restaurant by celebrity chef April Bloomfield and has been named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Bon Appetit. Our favorite dish was the bucatini with tomato, guanciale, and chile, so I was thrilled to find the recipe online and make it at home. It's a simple dish, but the combination of spicy tomato sauce, crispy guanciale (salt-cured pork), and perfectly al dente pasta is absolutely delicious and something that pretty much anyone would want to eat. Add a simple green salad and you can have a restaurant-worthy meal on the table in about thirty minutes.

Note: If you can't find guanciale, you can substitute it for thinly-sliced pancetta. If you can find bucatini (I wasn't able to), it will hold the sauce even better than spaghetti.

Related Recipes:
- Weeknight Bolognese
- Chicken Prosciutto Meatballs
- Deconstructed Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti with Tomato, Guanciale, & Chile:
  • Dice 1/4 lb. thinly sliced guanciale and add to a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Cook the guanciale for 10 minutes, or until the fat has rendered and the guanciale is crispy.
  • Remove the guanciale with a slotted spoon and keep the fat in the pan.
  • Add in 1/2 diced red onion and cook for another 7-8 minutes, or until softened and starting to brown.
  • Meanwhile, microwave 1 sprig of rosemary in 20 second intervals until dried, about 60 seconds total.
  • Grind the rosemary in a mortar in pestle or very finely chop.
  • Add the rosemary powder, 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, 1 scant tsp. red chile flakes, a pinch of salt, and all but 2 tbsp. guanciale.
  • Bring the sauce to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season generously with salt, and cook 1 lb. spaghetti according to package instructions.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1 c. pasta cooking water.
  • Add the pasta and 1/4 c. of water to the sauce and toss to combine, adding more water as needed to moisten.
  • Divide the pasta onto plates and top with a generous sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.

Serves four-five