keep it summer, stupid

fish with parmesan and tomatoes

In the midst of summer, you want to spend more time outside, more time with people you love, and more time with foods that are light and energizing. A recipe for your success: keep it simple, let the freshness of summer produce and the transformative powers of the smoky grill do most of the work – and you can spend more time with your friends, your drink, and your loaded up fork. Super easy, minutes-to-the-table panko crusted flounder with ripe tomatoes and herbs can easily be adapted to the grill in a foil packet.

grilled veggiesFind your most appealing summer veggies and load ’em on skewers. Nothing more than some olive oil is needed.

avocado and romaine saladTake this virtuous avocado and romaine salad and add a sprinkle of cotija, feta or goat cheese for a piquant punch.

grilled shrimpPlump shrimp loves a bit of oregano and lemon to bring out its best and brightest flavors on the grill.

grilled zucchini with chili and mintLoad up your plates with grilled zucchini dressed with mint and chili, close the grill and open up the cooler – your night is just getting started.

burgers & sandwiches

boo fly pie and steak sammies

grilled flank steak sandwiches with avocado and spicy cremaFor B on his birthday: grilled flank steak sandwiches with avocado and hot sauce crema.

grilled flank steak sandwich with avocado and spice crema

This Franken-sandwich is a conglomeration of the steak preparation from this recipe and the open faced sandwich preparation from this recipe. Definitely let the steak rest in a foil tent for at least 10 minutes off the grill for the juiciest, most flavorful slices. However, not eating meat myself I can’t really comment on the end result, but I can comment that these were GONE in 60 seconds.

shoo fly pie

Served with shoofly pie which I feel more qualified to comment on because I am a pie-avore. I might’ve overbaked a bit as it was more cakey than gooey to be considered a real wet-bottomed shoofly pie, but simple and molassesicous nonetheless.

burgers & sandwiches, lunch/dinner

what i had for dinner: condiment cleanout edition

My fridge is usually empty (gasp!) – but the door shelves are always full. I got capers for something and used only a teaspoon, then found a great recipe for miso poached cod and have a big container of miso languishing, and hit up another specialty store for authentic Indian pickle and then forgot to use it in anything else…and so it goes. Recently, I procured a jar of zesty harissa paste full of acidic and subtly spicy red chile as well as a pricey bottle of aromatic tangy preserved lemon for a Moroccan night. I really, really (really?) enjoyed the flavors of these new-to-me condiments so I’d been looking for an excuse to use them again (and use them up) in a less conventional format.

B’s Adam (not to be confused with my Adam, of Polish pierogi and pie proclivities) was dropping by for a doctoral candidate study break so the guy could use a good meal and some comforting convo. I imagined harissa, much like a tomato relish or tapenade, would be a perfect contrast to some creamy, buttery, melty cheese and a grilled cheese is always welcome on a comfort food menu. I was going to do a bright, tangy preserved lemon soup for the grilled cheese, but decided that their zing would go rather well with a juicy salad to balance the richness of the gooey sandwich. To bring it back full circle, I used up both harissa and preserved lemon to make an elegant yet easy-peasy sauce for shrimp – served over yesterday’s leftover rice and you’ve got yourself a balanced meal for fueling your dissertation-addled brain. I muddled together a bunch of different recipes and found the right balance for my tastebuds somewhere in between them, and ended up leaving the fridge door shelf just a bit lighter.

Harissa and Pear Grilled Cheese (aka Best Grilled Cheese Ever)

(inspired by Thierry Rautureau’s Top Chef Masters recipe)

– cut 4 slices of good quality white bread or French bread, about 1/4 inch thick (I used the sublime Acme sweetdough loaf, which is crusty and bubbly, salty and sweet like a delicious French baguette)

– butter each slice on one side (softened butter works best)

– in a small bowl, mix together 2 ounces of fresh goat cheese (chèvre) with 2 teaspoons harissa

– spread the cheese mixture on the non-buttered side of the bread

– fry the slices of bread (buttered side down) on medium low, go low and slow for that perfectly melty crunch

– while frying, top each slice of bread with a thin slices of a good melting cheese (I used Spring Brook Farm Reading Raclette which is buttery smooth and made for melting. A similar cheese would be Gruyère or Jarlsberg)

– fry up the bread until crisp golden brown and the cheese is melty, then remove from pan

– add some thin slices of pear to 2 slices of bread (I used crisp Bosc, but a greener Bartlett would also add that snappy crunch)

– top the pear with another slice of gooey melted cheesy buttery crisp bread

– slice up and serve (I cut into quarters for an appetizer)

makes 2 sandwiches

Avocado and Tomato Salad with Preserved Lemon

(a mashup of Cooking Light’s recipe with one of Ghillie Basan’s)

– add to a bowl: 2 diced roma tomatoes, 1/2 rinsed minced preserved lemon rind, 1/2 thinly sliced red onion, fresh squeezed juice of 1 lemon,  and 5-6 tablespoons good fruity olive oil (more or less based on how sharp you want your vinaigrette). mix it up.

– add salt and pepper to taste

– add 1 diced avocado and stir together gently

– serve with chopped fresh parsley and cilantro, a teaspoon of rinsed capers, and a good sprinkling of paprika

serves 4

Harissa and Goat Cheese One-Pan Shrimp

(inspired by this recipe by Carr Valley Cheese Company)

– heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat, add 2 minced cloves of garlic, 1/2 thinly sliced red onion, and/or  1 minced shallot

– when soft, add 1lb deveined, peeled shrimp

– when shrimp starts to become opaque add 2 diced roma tomatoes

– add 2 tablespoons harissa and 1 cup white wine, mix to incorporate and simmer until shrimp are cooked through and tomatoes start to soften

– add 2 ounces of fresh goat cheese (chèvre), mix well

– add 1/2 chopped preserved lemon rind (rinsed)

– add salt and pepper to taste

– just before serving add chopped fresh parsley and cilantro

– serve with rice or crusty bread

serves 4


pescado a la veracruzana

Have you noted a Mexican theme to the blog lately? Shrimp tacos and Mexican-style brownies and avocadotacos and such? Its not so much that I’m on a Mexican food kick as it is that the tangy, bold, sweet, juicy, punchy flavors I crave in the summer are perfectly embodied in the Mexican palate.  For a dinner party with my parents and B’s parents, I wanted to make something that reflected these flavors but know that my parents are not huge fans of cheese, corn, or heavy sauces that we sometimes associate with Mexican/Tex-Mex/Southwestern cuisine. Then, I remembered that when I went to Mexico, I had the most amazing fish plucked straight out of the water and bathed in stewed sweet tomatoes, salty tart olives, and fresh herbs – these are flavors my parents would love and so I looked to the coastal region of Veracruz for this dish with red snapper and shrimp.

This dish would work well with any kind of white fish (tilapia or cod would be delicious), and the shrimp are optional but I think their sweetness is greatly complimentary to the briny sauce.  You could add or subtract to the tomato olive sauce as you like – add bell peppers, remove the anchovies – but all together it is a rich, flavorful yet still rather light and fresh tasting stew.  You can make everything through step 3 a little earlier and then pop it into the oven to cook just before dinner.

Martha Stewart’s cilantro-lime rice is verdant and subtly piquant, but you could amp it up with more lime to Chipotle’s rice levels. I made a hyuuuuge batch of this for a taco party for 22 people and it was great with these black beans. Its super convenient to make the dressing beforehand with a whir of the food processor, then stick the washed rice into the cooker so that all you have to do is toss the cooked, fluffed rice with the dressing right before serving.

Joy the Baker’s avocado orange salad is juicy, crisp, creamy and kinda perfection. I adore salads with bits of tangy, juicy citrus and personally, I don’t think you could go wrong with avocado in anything. The only changes I made were adding a second orange (because, yes please) and I didn’t do the raw egg in the dressing but used a spoon of yogurt instead. The dressing was easy to make ahead of time and I think it’s my new favorite (sorry Green Goddess, we’ll always have 2011).

Veracruz-Style Fish and Shrimp
Mexican, 2012 – Better Homes and Garden Special Publication

six 6oz fillets    fresh or frozen red snapper fillets (with or without skin)
12-18                  fresh or frozen shrimp, deveined and peeled
1/4 cup               fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons  olive oil
1/4 teaspoon   salt
1 cup                  white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves             garlic, thinly sliced
2                          canned anchovy fillets, chopped
1/3 cup              dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
one 28oz can   diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup                   seafood stock or chicken broth
12                        whole pimiento-stuffed green olives
1/4 cup               sliced pickled jalapenos
2 tablespoons   capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon    crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon    dried oregano, crushed
1/4 cup               italian flat leaf parsley or cilantro, roughly chopped


1. Thaw fish and shrimp, if frozen. Rinse fish and shrimp; pat dry with paper towels. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 3 quart rectangular baking dish with cooking spray or oil.

2. Using a sharp knife, score fish by making three shallow cuts about 2 inches long through the skin (or flesh, if skinless) of each fillet; place fillets in prepared baking dish. Add lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the salt to baking dish, turning fish to coat. Arrange fillets skin side down and place 2-3 shrimp on top of each fillet; set aside.

3. In a large saucepan heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and anchovies; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in wine; cook for 1 minute more. Add tomatoes and juice, stock or broth, olives, pickled jalapenos, capers, crushed red pepper, and oregano. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Immediately ladle mixture over fish and shrimp. Cover baking dish tightly with foil.

4. Bake for 13 minutes then remove foil and bake uncovered for 5 more minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with fork. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro. Serve with rice or  roasted potatoes.

Serves 6


what i had for dinner: avocadotaco

My kitchen is flush with summer jewels from the garden. I am both luxuriating in the lush fruits at their peaks of ripeness, just waiting in a bowl to be plucked and peeled and bitten – as well as feeling rather slothful about turning any sort of appliance on to cook away their freshness. For three days straight, I’ve figured out a way to have it all: the avocadotaco. Its a perfect way to enjoy the creamy avocados, juicy ripe tomatoes, and pyramid of key limes I have leftover from hosting taco parties and making gallons of fresh margaritas. This is not a guacotaco: no pre-prepared guacamole will have the same effect. Yeah, you could add leftover meat or beans, but honestly you don’t need them – especially if your ingredients are bursting with ripeness. Key limes are not essential: a tart regular lime will be just as great, but I have a boatload of key limes here and they’re so sweet and provide just the perfect amount of juice per avocado.

The method is lazy-stupid-easy:
– Halve an avocado (preferably after it has ripened nicely to a slightly soft texture), remove the pit.
– Halve a lime. Squeeze the juice of each lime half into each avocado half.
– Add a dose of garlic (fresh minced 1/2 clove per avocado half, or a dab of garlic paste).
– Salt and pepper generously.
– Take a fork and within each avocado skin: mash it up! Keep it chunky and just incorporated.
– Heat up a couple of tortillas on the griddle or microwave.
(I added some slices of cotija cheese and melted it on the tortillas because YUM and also it has just the right saltiness)
– Spread avocado on tortilla.
– Top with really sweet, really ripe, really juicy summer tomatoes.
– Fold, stuff your face, wash down with a cold Pacifico or fresh squeezed limeade.
– Smirk at the oven and the pot and the dishwasher – you showed them!