Two (Quick) Little Gems

Do you ever have one of those days where you are so tired you literally are mouthbreathing on your drive home? That was me on Wednesday and I didn’t think I could muster up enough energy to sit on the couch upright, let alone cook dinner. So you could imagine my sheer happiness dear readers when I saw I had chosen two quickie recipes to test and boy do I mean quick(ie).

Grilled Black Cod with Fried Garlic and Chiles from Bon Appetit and Basil Vinaigrette from Food & Wine that topped beautiful and juicy heirloom tomatoes was so easy to make. First up the Grilled Black Cod with Fried Garlic. I broiled the cod until cooked through which took maybe 8 – 10 minutes in my oven, and the fried garlic took about two minutes plus chopping time for the fresh parsley. Yummy is all I have to say about this dish. The fish was moist and tasty and the fried garlic, red pepper and oil accented it perfectly.

Next the Basil Vinaigrette recipe that took five minutes to make, plus a few minutes to slice up all of the beautiful tomatoes. When I tasted the vinaigrette on it’s own I thought it was good, you know just good, but when I drizzled over the heirlooms…KAPOW! It was amazing.

These two may not seem like a likely pairing but I really enjoyed them together, plus it took about 20 minutes to put it all together.


Pan Fried Chicken and Peonies!

I love fresh flowers but my budget does not allow them too often. My local H-E-B had these beautiful Peonies on sale and had to share them with you…Ok, now to my perfect little Sunday dinner. First up was Pan Fried Chicken from Cooking Light. I have tried many a fried chicken recipes from Cooking Light including an oven-fried version that just didn’t get the crispy, crunchy skin you find when pan frying. With this recipe they nailed it. Simply combining all-purpose and whole wheat flours with ground cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika and ginger, this skin turned out perfectly and the chicken was deliciously juicy. I served with a little bit of honey because I love the combination of honey and fried chicken. If you are concerned that the ground spices might overpower the chicken, don’t be, the flavors were subtle but fantastic.

I served this with some grilled zucchini, red bell peppers and red onion with a delicious Creamy Feta Vinaigrette from Food & Wine. It was so easy to make and the vinaigrette was creamy and yummy.

I finished my meal with some simple strawberries with fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette. What a great Sunday meal!

R.I.P. Mr. Lobster

I decided to go on an East Coast journey with two dishes from Cooking Light which were the Lobster Rolls and the Roasted Corn, Pepper and Tomato Chowder recipes.
SO I make the lobster filling and chill it for an hour as suggested and then proceed to dedicate my evening to making the chowder. The chowder was very, very good. It had a nice sweetness to it and the bleu cheese and chives really made this dish sing.
As I was finishing up my chowda I pulled out my lobster roll filling and set it on the counter. As I was walking away I heard a loud crash, and at that moment realized that my entire lobster filling had crashed to the floor. Of course my funny little cat, known as Gabriel, smelling lobster ran straight towards the kitchen where I squealed and scooted him out. Look at that face, can’t let my little one get hurt!

Although I was seriously disappointed in my complete idiocy, I did get to taste the filling before it chilled and it was so, so, so good…sigh. Maybe y’all should try it and let me know how it really turns out. :(
I highly recommend the chowder recipe and I have plenty of leftovers for the next few days!

Grilled Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Avocado-Lime Salsa

I was looking forward to these tacos all week and after a pretty hectic day with no lunch to speak of, I got home and was starving! These were just what I needed, well that and a glass or 20 of wine (kidding, kidding). The salsa was amazing and instead of adding in hot sauce I put in a Serrano chili. I also served with some Monterrey Jack cheese because well, I needed some cheese.

What I always appreciate about Cooking Light is their Menu Suggestions section in the back of the magazine which are short recipes and sides to serve with a few select dishes to round out a meal. This one had a GREAT side to serve with the tacos, Smoky Refried Beans (recipe below) and I think this may turn into my refried bean staple – yes, we all need one – from now on.
For vegetarians, I could see the refried beans being spread on the tacos and served with the salsa and cabbage to make sure you have crunch. You could remove the bacon and in its place put it a little cumin or chili powder to give the beans a smoky flavor? I pulled that out of thin air!
Smoky Refried Beans
Cook 2 slices applewood-smoked bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserve drippings. Crumble bacon, set aside. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth 1 (15-ounce) can drained and rinsed pinto beans; mash with potato masher to desired consistency. Cook until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with bacon and 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro.

My New Relationship…

…with a Cuban Sandwich. It all started so innocently at my local H-E-B. Eyeing me from across the checkout aisle was the new Bon Appetit magazine with some juicy looking ribs on the cover, but it wasn’t the ribs that made me fall in love, no, no, it was a Cuban Sandwich with Zucchini Pickles recipe from their Reader’s Favorite Restaurant Recipes section. I love Cuban Sandwiches and have been dying to try one at home. Reading the recipe I knew that this was going to be a serious committment on both our parts and let’s just say this was an intense relationship from the start. First, you have to make the brine and then “cook” the pork in the brine for two days AND do the zucchini pickles which drain in a sink for two hours and then need time to “pickle” themselves.

As with any start of a relationship, I’ll admit I was a little nervous. With all this waiting and brining and waiting some more, would this be the Cuban sandwich of my dreams? It got down to our official date night last night and you have to roast the pork for 45 minutes and then let it rest an hour, quite the diva isn’t it?
Finally it came time to assemble the sandwich and I really did look at it and say “ok buddy here we go!” how lame am I right? I bit into the sandwich and thought…”yeah it’s pretty good but not as delicious as I had dreamed in my head,” isn’t that how all relationships are? 😉

I can’t find the recipes online (see how demanding this relationship is!?) so have posted both recipes below. If you are willing to make this effort for a sandwich, not a holiday meal a sandwich, then try it. It was good but the best part of it was the Zucchini Pickles, yum!

I’m moving on to a new Cuban sandwich recipe so if you have a favorite for the love people share with me!

Cuban Sandwiches with Zucchini Pickles

From Bon Appetit, Artisan Restaurant in Paso Robles, CA

3 quarts water
1 1/2 cups of apple juice
3/4 cup coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup sugar
4 large thyme sprigs
2 heads of garlic, halved horizontally
2 bay leaves
2 whole star anise
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 teaspoon whole allspice
2 large oranges, halved
1 2 1/4-pound boneless pork loin

2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 garlic cloves, pressed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

10 ciabatta rolls, halved horizontally
2 pounds thinly sliced Black Forest ham or honey-maple ham
Zucchini Pickles (recipe below)
1 pound Emmenthal cheese, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

Place first 12 ingredients in heavy large pot. Squeeze juice from orange halves into pot, then add orange halves. Bring mixture to boil, stirring until salt and sugar dissolve. Reduce heat to medium and simmer brine 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Cool, then cover and refrigerate brine overnight.

Add pork to brine; marinate in refrigerator two days, occasionally turning pork.

Whisk mayonnaise and oil in medium bowl to blend. Whisk in all remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.


Preheat over to 350 degrees. Place rack in roasting pan. Remove pork from brine; place in prepared pan. Roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into pork registers 145 degrees, about 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hours. Slice thinly.

Preheat broiler. Spread 1 rounded tablespoon aioli on cut side of each ciabatta roll half. Heat griddle or heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry ham just until heated through and beginning to brown, turning occasionally about 1 minute. Place roll bottoms on large rimmed baking sheet. Divide among sandwiches; arrange 1/4 cup of Zucchini Pickles over pork on each sandwich. Top each sandwich with cheese, dividing equally. Broil sandwiches until cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Cover each with roll top and serve.

Zucchini Pickles

From Bon Appetit, Artisan Restaurant in Paso Robles, CA

Makes about 6 cups

2 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
2 cups Champagne vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

Toss first 3 ingredients in large colander. Place in sink and let drain 2 hours. Rinse vegetables; drain. Transfer to kitchen towels. Gentle squeeze vegetables to dry. Place in 8-cup glass measuring cup or large bowl.

Bring vinegar and all remaining ingredients to boil in small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes. Pour vinegar mixture over zucchini mixture, pressing on vegetables to submerge. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill overnight. Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep pickles chilled.

Flexing My Cooking Mussels!

I love mussels, especially with some warm, toasty bread so you can dip it in the delicious broth once you are done…exquisite. I have never attempted to cook mussels at home and I have to admit this was very similar to my scallop-phobia which I have quickly overcome. Was I as successful with mussels? It is a resounding yes my friends!
I came across this Coconut and Basil Steamed Mussels recipe in Cooking Light and the dialogue in my head was something like:
Emily: “I love mussels but would I dare try to make them at home? I will probably massacre the poor little buggers.”
Emily: “Maybe, but you never know unless you try.”
Yoda: “Do or do not, there is no try.”
I don’t know why Yoda popped in my head but that green, big-eared creature is right, I must just do it!
I was certainly surprised at how super-easy and delicious this turned out. I love the flavor combination of chicken broth, coconut milk, fresh basil, fish sauce, lime juice and Sriracha (spicy!) and it worked beautifully with the mussels. I served this with a side of scallion rice and sauteed spinach as suggested.
I also enjoyed this with a crisp and light Montecillo 2006 Rioja white wine that complemented the flavors really well and is on sale for $10 at Whole Food Market. From the back of the bottle “It is a dry, smooth and fruity wine with notes of pear and wild apple. Suited for drinking as an appertif or with grilled or sauteed fish, seafood, pasta or paella or Emily’s amazing mussels”…ok last part was a stretch.
I will now seek out mussel recipes and see what else can be done, maybe next time with some toasted bread?

Grilled Pork with Blackberry-Sage Sauce

You know when you first take a bite of something and then you immediately slow down because it’s so good you want to savor every bite? Yeah, that was this dish in a nutshell. I ate this so slowly and was quite upset when the experience ended. Now that’s a great dish! I love me some pork tenderloin and the blackberry-sage sauce was the perfect complement to the juicy, succulent pork.

The sauce was pretty simple to make and I simply roasted the pork tenderloin in the oven until it registered 155 degrees and let it rest for ten minutes. I served with a side of sauteed garlic green beans. In my eyes this was a perfect Sunday dinner.

Coffee-Rubbed Cheeseburgers with Texas BBQ Sauce

Just by reading the name of this recipe, this burger from Bon Appetit has a lot going for it. (1) it has the word Texas in it (2) it has BBQ sauce (3) we know there is some sort of cheese.

I had a feeling this was going to be delicious when I made the very simple to make homemade BBQ sauce first. I seriously will use this recipe anytime something calls for BBQ sauce as this was such a spicy, well-balanced and beautiful homemade recipe I don’t see the point of buying bottled again.
The coffee rub, which is a blend of fresh ground coffee, sea salt, pepper, dried oregano, ground coriander and brown sugar, smelled heavenly when I was putting it together so you can imagine the magic that happened once you sprinkled on the burger patties and grilled.
I couldn’t find regular potato bread buns and when I checked with the bakery they only had large potato bread dinner rolls. “Screw it” I thought, “I will just make sliders, nothing is getting between me and this burger!”
Combine the amazing BBQ sauce, coffee-rubbed beef patty, thinly sliced smoked Gouda, applewood-smoked bacon with fresh tomato and red onion and you’ve got a burger that is INCREDIBLE. I really enjoyed this burger and it will certainly be on my permanent menu rotation. I’m loving all of these burger recipes, keep them coming!