Panzanella Verde — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, In Season, July 5th, 2013

Panzanella VerdeEach summer I choose a salad that will become my go-to barbecue and party contribution for the season. One year I spent three months making variations of potato salads (my husband really liked that year). The next time around, I declared that it was to be the summer of slaw and ended up shredding cabbage, carrots, beets and kohlrabi well into the fall. The year I got married, I was all about quinoa salads.

I find that I really appreciate having a particular genre of salad to work with each year, as it gives me some structure (always a good thing in a busy life), but also allows me to explore the many different varieties that each kind of salad embodies. There’s a great deal of pleasure in trying on different combinations and seeing how the various flavors mix and marry.

Recently I decided that the summer of 2013 is going to be all about panzanella. This is a traditional Italian salad that stars cubes of toasted stale bread and often features tomatoes and a variety of other crunchy, savory things. It can be made with grilled vegetables, sweet potatoes and even chicken or tofu (I do love a salad that can become a full meal).

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Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken with Harissa — The Weekender

by in Recipes, June 28th, 2013

Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken with HarissaDry, flavorless chicken. It’s something that every backyard griller has faced at one point or another in his or her outdoor cooking career. Once it happens, even an easygoing home cook will start taking extreme measures to ensure that future grilled chicken stays moist.

Some swear by an overnight rest in a seasoned salt brine (much like what is recommended for Thanksgiving turkeys). Others choose to perch a whole chicken atop an open can of beer, thinking that the vapors help keep the bird tender. Truly, there are enough dry rubs, soy-based marinades and tangy sauces out there to fill a small stadium.

Thanks to Alex Guarnaschelli, however, and her recipe for Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken with Harissa, I’ve discovered that you don’t need any of that stuff. All it takes to make a gorgeously tender and burnished grilled chicken is a sturdy pair of kitchen shears, a little bit of yogurt, a few spices and some steady, indirect heat. She also includes a recipe for homemade harissa (a spicy sauce with roasted red peppers as its base) that makes this chicken positively dreamy. The whole thing is easy, nearly foolproof and just perfect for The Weekender.

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Beef and Bean Burritos — The Weekender

by in Recipes, June 21st, 2013

Beef and Bean BurritosBurritos were a staple food during the Southern California portion of my childhood. We made them at home, ordered them at restaurants and kept a few pre-made Trader Joe’s bean and cheese burritos in the freezer for quick lunches and after-school snacking.

Oddly, once we headed north to Portland, burritos fell out of the rotation (replaced, I imagine, by grilled salmon). Still, I’ve always had a soft spot for the burrito.

Recently, while plotting out the next couple weeks of meals, I realized I have a great deal of travel in store during the course of the summer. I’m the primary cook in my household, and while my husband is more than capable of managing his own meals, I like to leave a few homemade things in the freezer for him when I’m going to be away for more than two nights.

So far I have frozen several portions of vegetable-heavy turkey chili, made a couple homemade frozen pizzas and wrapped up half a dozen homemade burritos.

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Striped Bass and Preserved Lemon Dressing With Grilled Carrots — The Weekender

by in Recipes, June 14th, 2013

Striped Bass With Preserved Lemon Dressing and Grilled Carrots - The WeekenderEvery winter I order up a large box of Meyer lemons from California. I make marmalade, lemonade concentrate and a big jar of salt-preserved lemons. I spread the marmalade on toast, drizzle the lemonade concentrate into glasses of sparkling water and stare at the preserved lemons, wondering what the heck to do with them.

And so I search out recipes that feature these lemons. I make a few tagines (a traditional use for these salty preserved lemons). I whiz a few slivers into hummus. And I blend up a creamy salad dressing to eat with tomatoes and avocado. Still, there are more preserved lemons to eat.

Because I always have a jar of these lemons in my fridge just begging to be used, any time I spot a recipe that includes them, I sit up and take notice. The recipe that most recently caught my eye was Ina Garten’s Striped Bass and Preserved Lemon Dressing With Grilled Carrots. It’s a gorgeously simple preparation. The fish is pan-roasted, then settled on top of a sunny pool of dressing that’s made from preserved lemons, mayonnaise and vinegar. It’s fresh tasting and the perfect thing for these summer Weekenders.

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Peas and Potato Soup With Tarragon Pesto — The Weekender

by in Recipes, June 7th, 2013

Peas and Potato Soup With Tarragon Pesto - The WeekenderMost people I know put away their soup pots when summer rolls around. And while I understand the inclination (who wants to heat up their kitchen with a long-simmered thing when it’s 90 degrees F?), I am of the belief that soup is a four-season food.

In my mind, there’s no better way to make quick, easy work of all that garden and farmers’ market produce than with a simple soup. All spring I’ve been making pureed soups with peas, asparagus and sorrel, and I’m happily anticipating the coming glut of tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant.

Those three make a blissful soup when roasted, pureed with a little stock and seasoned with garlic, basil and grated Parmesan cheese. They can also be grilled, if you insist upon keeping the heat out of your kitchen.

I always take note when I spot a good soup for the spring and summer months (I shop for recipes the way other women hunt for shoes). Thanks to this habit of mine, when a giant head of escarole appeared in my first CSA share this weekend (along with parsley, tarragon and spring onions), I knew just where to turn: Rachael Ray’s Peas and Potato Soup With Tarragon Pesto.

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Crunchy Salad With Cocoa Vinaigrette — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Recipes, May 31st, 2013

Crunchy Salad With Cocoa VinaigretteI learned to make basic vinaigrettes when I was in my early 20s. It was my first summer in Philadelphia and I was living alone in my grandmother’s old apartment. She had always been more of an entertainer than a cook, so my inherited kitchen featured every kind of cocktail glass, but not much in the way of durable cookware.

Her library of cookbooks was equally paltry. There was a community cookbook compiled to raise funds for the Philadelphia Orchestra, a coffee table tome from local celebrity chef Georges Perrier and a copy of the The Frog Commissary Cookbook (the Frog and the Commissary had been a pair of innovative Philly restaurants in the ’70s and ’80s that my grandmother had loved).

I found that I never had much use for those first two volumes, but Frog Commissary rapidly became my cooking primer. I turned to it at least once a week for guidance on soups, salads, muffins and desserts. I was most drawn to the 15 pages of vinaigrettes and dressings because the recipes were written clearly and gave me nearly endless options for improving my salads. I learned how to make a basic vinaigrette and how to enhance it with herbs, spices and aromatics. Eleven years later, the things I absorbed from that book stay with me.

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Turkey and Blistered Green Chile Burgers — The Weekender

by in Entertaining, Holidays, May 24th, 2013

Turkey and Blistered Green Chile BurgersFor the last few years, my husband and I have been in the habit of visiting friends in Northampton, Mass., for the long Memorial Day weekend. We make the trek from Philadelphia on Saturday morning, arriving sometime in the early afternoon, very ready for several days of catching up, early cocktail hours and lazy meals.

One thing that’s always particularly fun about these weekends is that these friends take their grilling very seriously. We live in an apartment without a stitch of outdoor space, so I’m always excited to have an opportunity to cook outside on a real, live flame (my everyday cooktop is an ancient, soul-less electric stove).

Two years ago we experimented with grilled pizzas (a huge success!), and last summer we cooked up a buffet of sausages, from-scratch veggie burgers and a mountain of grilled vegetables. As our visit approaches, I’ve had my eyes open for new recipes that might work well on their deluxe grill.

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Four Cheese Ravioli and Herb Pesto — The Weekender

by in Recipes, May 17th, 2013

Four Cheese Ravioli With Pesto - The WeekenderI have long been intimidated by the idea of homemade pasta. I’m entirely comfortable tackling all manner of DIY foods, from jams and pickles to home-cured meats and fish, but there’s just something about pasta dishes that leaves me uneasy.

Recently, though, I decided it was finally time to shake off my pasta resistance and give it a try. It just seemed like a good project to help me push the edges of my culinary comfort zone, which is something I’m always trying to do.

And so I went in search of recipes and tutorials as a guide (isn’t the Internet amazing for that kind of thing?) and came across Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for Four Cheese Ravioli With Herb Pesto.

It turns out that this is sort of a cheater recipe, in that Giada has you use wonton wrappers for the pasta layer. It was the absolutely perfect starting place for me, however, because it gave me a chance to get comfortable with the folding, wrapping and pinching required in making ravioli. I bet it’d be a good starting place for some of you, too.

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Orange Sweet Rolls — The Weekender

by in Holidays, May 10th, 2013

Orange Sweet Rolls - The WeekenderThis Sunday, families all across this country will be gathering to honor their mothers (and grandmothers, too). Some do this with flowers, plants or gifts of fancy soaps. Others make reservations well in advance for special brunches at favorite restaurants.

In my family, we tend to go the homemade route, with a nice brunch at home. This saves on money and on the frustration of restaurant dining on a particularly busy day. The menu typically includes eggs of some kind (a quiche is always good), a green salad, roasted potatoes and some kind of sweet bread.

I like to switch up the sweet bread each year — to keep things interesting. Last year I made cranberry orange scones, and the year before, bear claws (that was not my most successful venture). This year I decided I wanted to do a sweet roll of some sort and settled on The Pioneer Woman’s Orange Sweet Rolls.

It’s a lightly sweetened, yeasted dough that you fill with melted butter, brown sugar and plenty of orange marmalade. Rolled, sliced, tucked into pans and allowed to rise, these rolls bake up into a most-fragrant, gorgeous treat.

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Chicken Enchiladas With Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa — The Weekender

by in View All Posts, May 3rd, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas With Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa

My husband and I have some friends who have an annual cookout on the first Saturday in May. They call it their Cinco de Mayo party, though it only occasionally falls on the fifth of May. Still, there’s always a bounty of chips, guacamole, carne asada and other appropriately celebratory foods.

It’s always a challenge to come up with something to bring that will please a number of palates, will transport well (they live about an hour away) and is in keeping with the theme of the day. In past years, I’ve brought hand-chopped coleslaw with a cumin dressing, a vat of homemade pico de gallo and jars of my favorite roasted corn salsa. All good options, but this year I was ready to up my game a little.

I’ve been thinking that enchiladas would be a good way to go, but I didn’t have a recipe I really loved. Happily, there was a wealth of recipes to be found in the Food Network archives. I settled on Tyler Florence’s Chicken Enchiladas With Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa. I find that chicken is nearly always a crowd-pleaser, and I liked the idea of making the sauce from scratch.

These enchiladas are definitely a multi-step process, but they’re easy to make once you get an assembly line of sorts established on your kitchen counter (they go even faster if you enlist help). The finished product is an enchilada that is tangy, cheesy and pleasantly spicy. They are just the thing for your Cinco de Mayo Weekender!

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