lunch/dinner

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.

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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

lunch/dinner

what i had for dinner: shrimp tacos and napa cabbage salad

I feel really bad for pre-California me, because she did not have too many options for Mexican food, and the vast majority of those choices were not terribly good. California me has Mexican, Cal-Mexican, Mexican fusion (Indian burritos and Korean tacos? OK!), regional Mexican, and even vegetarian or vegan-friendly Mexican options all around me and the vast majority of them are quite good, actually.  B’s a native Californian, so he would happily eat Mexican food every meal given half a chance. This night, we both had thrilled taste buds with my favorite: shrimp tacos.

Take this simple recipe and add whatever you like. I switched the parsley for cilantro, because shrimp and cilantro love each other and make each other very, very happy.

To each warm tortilla, I added:

– shredded red cabbage

– sliced California avocado

– fresh tomato salsa

lime cilantro crema from this super easy recipe

– crumbles of cotija cheese

– a spritz of fresh lime juice

As a side, I served this Napa cabbage salad with buttermilk dressing for a cooling, crunchy counterpart. Napa cabbage is lighter and sweeter than other cabbages so this would make a good substitute for mayo-clogged coleslaws. I’m not a fan of radishes or celery so I substituted peeled, diced cucumbers for their crunch and some shredded carrot for sweetness.  I found the buttermilk dressing a but too thin and plain for my taste, so I added a dollop of sour cream to thicken it and found that the tanginess worked nicely as well. This dressing was very subtle, so I’d definitely add more garlic and herbs next time.