BLT Tacos

Why have I never thought of making a BLT taco before? Genius.

This quick and delicious weeknight dinner recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I cooked the bacon at a lower temperature, increasing the cooking time. I think that this method isn’t as messy. 🙂 I added avocado slices, used corn-flour hybrid tortillas, a Serrano instead of jalapeño chile, increased the lime juice, and used chipotle Tabasco in the mayonnaise. I also warmed the tortillas with steam in the microwave.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 pound thick-cut bacon, about 10 slices
  • 1 pint (2 cups) grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered (mixed colors are pretty here)
  • 1 small Serrano or jalapeño chile, seeded or not, finely chopped
  • 2-3 T cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Cholula or other hot sauce, or to taste, plus more for serving (I used Chipotle Tabasco)
  • 8 (6-inch) corn or flour tortillas (I used corn-flour hybrid tortillas)
  • Romaine lettuce leaves, sliced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 avocado, sliced into eighths
  • refried beans and rice, for serving, optional
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection. Lay bacon in an even layer in 2 9-13″ glass pyrex dishes or on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until browned and crisp, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plates and let cool. (Keep rendered fat for another use.)
  2. While bacon is cooking, toss together tomatoes, chopped chile, cilantro, lime juice and a large pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Taste and add more lime juice and salt, if needed.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and hot sauce.
  4. Place tortillas in a tortilla warmer or medium bowl. Top with a damp paper towel and seal with a lid or plastic wrap. Microwave for 1 minute to warm.  (Alternatively, the tortillas can be warmed on the stove top: Lay a clean kitchen towel in a medium bowl. Using the open flame from a stovetop gas burner (or in a skillet placed on an electric burner), warm and lightly char tortillas, 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Transfer warmed tortillas to a towel-lined bowl, and cover with towel to keep warm while you finish remaining tortillas.)
  5. Serve, letting people make their own tacos by layering bacon, salsa, lettuce, spicy mayonnaise and avocado, on tortillas. Top with more hot sauce, if desired.
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Chicken with Vinegar

I have made this simple and full-flavored dish a couple of times recently. It’s a crowd pleaser in my house.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Mark Bittman. According to the article, Jean-Georges Vongerichten learned how to make this recipe from the chef Paul Bocuse, who popularized it at La Mère Brazier in Lyon, France.

I decreased the oven temperature, used shallots in the sauce and scallions as a garnish. I kept all of the drippings to make the sauce and omitted the water and butter in the finished sauce. The extra sauce was wonderful drizzled over roasted potatoes and sautéed greens.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 3-pound chicken, cut up for sautéing
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup minced shallots (about 2 large)
  • 1 cup good red-wine vinegar (preferably with 5% acidity)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, optional
  • fresh parsley, thyme, or tarragon for garnish
  • sliced scallions, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Set a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; when it is hot, place chicken in the skillet, skin side down. Cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes, or until chicken is nicely browned. Turn and cook 3 minutes on the other side. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Place skillet in the oven. Cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until almost done, about 165 degrees (juices will run clear, and there will be just a trace of pink near the bone). Remove chicken to an ovenproof platter. Place it in the oven and turn off the heat, and leave the door slightly ajar; alternatively place in a warming drawer tented with foil.
  4. Place skillet over medium-high heat, and add shallots; sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add vinegar, and raise the heat to high. Cook a minute or two, or until the powerful acid smell has subsided somewhat. Add 1/2 cup water if using vinegar with >5% acidity (I omitted the water), and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring, until the mixture is slightly reduced and somewhat thickened.
  6. Stir in butter, if desired.
  7. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices to the skillet, and turn the chicken in the sauce. Garnish with herbs and scallions, as desired. Serve immediately.

Note: Most wine vinegar sold in the United States has an acidity level of 7%; many French vinegars are just 5% acidity. So it’s best to cut strong vinegar with some water.

Easy Fridge Dill Pickles

This is the easiest recipe I’ve ever posted- and I’ve posted my favorite garlic bread recipe. 😉

Now that I’ve made them twice, I have to share the method because they were absolutely delicious. This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com. I listed the ingredients needed for each 24-ounce (3 cup) jar. I bought an enormous bag of Kirby cucumbers at a farm stand and just kept making pickles until they were all sliced. TONS of pickles! I filled an assortment of recycled jars, lining the top with saran wrap to keep the lid from absorbing the pickle scent.

I used fresh dill and crushed garlic cloves to flavor the brine, but sliced white onion, dill seeds or pickling spice were other suggested seasonings. Pickles may be the perfect snack.

Per 24-ounce Jar:

  • 4-5 Kirby (pickling) cucumbers (or enough to fill the jar)
  • 3 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 T chopped fresh dill and/or one dill sprig
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  1. Using a mandoline, cut the cucumbers into 1/8-inch thick rounds. Place them in a lidded jar, filling the jar to the top.
  2. Add salt, dill, and garlic cloves.
  3. Pour in the white vinegar. The liquid level will be much lower than the height of the cucumbers but will adjust as they wilt.
  4. Close the jar, lining the lid with saran wrap if desired, and shake to distribute the ingredients.
  5. Place the jar in the refrigerator and shake it once or twice over the next few hours.
  6. Pickles are ready to eat in 6 to 8 hours but will keep, submerged in their brine, for up to 3 weeks.

Notes:

  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dill seeds or 1 T of pickling spice can be substituted for the fresh dill.
  • Thinly sliced white onion can be substituted for the garlic cloves.
  • Seedless cucumbers can be substituted for Kirby cucumbers but the pickles may be less crunchy.

Bucatini with Burst Cherry Tomatoes & Basil

My kids are back in school! I can get back to sharing dishes that we enjoyed this summer (and probably last spring as well). I have quite a few to share. 🙂

This is a fabulous, restaurant-indulgent, late summer pasta dish. The real beauty of it is that it could be made in any season to bring back the taste of summer. It was also quick and easy to prepare- the best combination. The cheese adds creaminess to the finished dish but can easily be omitted for a vegan version.

This recipe was adapted from Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox. I used grape instead of cherry tomatoes, bucatini instead of spaghettini, and modified the proportions. I am definitely going to make this dish year round. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound bucatini, spaghettini, spaghetti, or angel hair pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 small red onion or 1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced, about 1 cup
  • 4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds (about 3 pints) grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups loosely packed torn basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2-4 T finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted boiling water until al dente. (Simmons recommends 2 T of kosher or fine sea salt in 4 quarts of water.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12- or 14-inch skillet or wide, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the red pepper flakes, then stir in the tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the tomatoes have burst, 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain the pasta.
  6. Add the pasta, along with the reserved pasta cooking water, to the pan with the sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the pasta is coated, about 30 seconds, then stir in the basil and parsley.
  7. Divide the pasta among serving plates. Dollop with the ricotta and sprinkle with Parmesan and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired, and serve immediately.

Sheet Pan Crispy Mushroom-Parmesan Sandwiches

I must confess that we’ve eaten these delicious sandwiches on a couple of occasions already. They are a fabulous variation of the more common vegetarian alternative “parm” sandwich, eggplant parmesan. Worth using the oven in the summer! 🙂

This recipe was adapted from Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven by Raquel Pelzel. I served them with both challah and potato rolls, on different occasions. The original recipe recommends sub rolls. I modified the proportions, used part-skim mozzarella, and substituted fontina for the provolone cheese. Fabulous!

Yield: 4 sandwiches

  • 8 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp plus a pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup grated low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated fontina or provolone cheese
  • 6 T finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 4 large or 6 medium portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine), or more, as desired
  • 4 rolls, such as challah, potato, or sub rolls
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a microwave safe bowl, and warm in the microwave at high power until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds.
  3. Pour 3 T garlic oil into a small bowl and add the panko bread crumbs and a pinch of kosher salt. Rub together with your fingers to combine and set aside, reserving the remaining garlic oil. (Add up to an additional tablespoon of garlic oil, as needed.)
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the mozzarella, fontina (or provolone), and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses.
  5. Place the mushrooms in a medium-sized bowl and toss with 2 T garlic oil and the remaining 1 tsp kosher salt.
  6. Transfer the mushrooms to a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan and roast until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Do not flip them. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate and set aside.
  7. Line a second sheet pan with aluminum foil (or the same pan if it is cool enough to handle). Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and preheat the broiler to high.
  8. Open the rolls and lightly brush the interior of each with some of the remaining garlic oil.
  9. Place the rolls, face up, on the prepared sheet pan and broil until the bread is golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Watch carefully! Remove the rolls from the oven, keeping the broiler on, and divide the tops of the rolls among 4 plates. Leave the bottom of the rolls on the sheet pan.
  10. Arrange the mushrooms over the bottom halves of the rolls and top each with 2 (or more) T marinara, spreading it out a bit.
  11. Divide the cheese over each mound of vegetables and return the sheet pan to the broiler. Broil until the cheese is melted, 1 to 3 minutes, watching carefully.
  12. Sprinkle the reserved panko bread crumbs evenly over the cheese and return to the broiler until the crumbs are golden and crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.
  13. Transfer each portion to a plate and top with reserved roll top. Serve hot.

Sheet Pan Orzo with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon, & Mozzarella

I realize that many people avoid using the oven in warm weather, but I have a couple of quick sheet pan meals that make using the oven completely worth the extra summer heat.

In this dish, the pasta even cooks in the oven! It was super creamy as a result. The roasted lemon added incredible brightness. This recipe is from Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven by Raquel Pelzel. The cheese can be omitted for a vegan version. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium-size lemon, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed
  • 3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 16 oz orzo pasta
  • 3 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced crosswise into ribbons
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, roughly torn by hand
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a sheet pan on the rack, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place the tomatoes, lemon, garlic, 1 tsp salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and the olive oil in a medium-size bowl and toss to combine.
  3. Carefully turn the tomato mixture out onto the heated sheet pan, spread it in an even layer, and roast for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and stir the vermouth into the tomato mixture.
  5. Using a spatula, press down on the tomatoes and lemon slices to extract their juices.
  6. Stir in the orzo.
  7. Pull the oven rack partway out of the oven and place the sheet pan on it. Carefully pour the boiling water into the orzo, stirring to combine and distribute evenly.
  8. Wearing oven mitts, cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil (you may need 2 sheets), crimping it tightly around the edges to seal. Bake the pasta for 15 minutes.
  9. Uncover the pan, add the remaining 1 tsp salt, stir, and cook, uncovered, to allow the juices to thicken and any partially cooked pasta from the top layer to absorb more liquid, about 5 minutes more.
  10. Preheat the broiler to high.
  11. Stir most of the basil into the pasta, then scatter the mozzarella cheese over the top. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the mozzarella and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, 3 to 5 minutes more. Watch carefully!
  12. Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes.
  13. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the top just before serving.

Indian Tomato Rice

I couldn’t stop myself from trying- and sharing- one more recipe in Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street: The New Home Cooking book. 🙂 This recipe was inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s tomato rice recipe in Vegetarian India.

This quick and versatile dish can be served as a side with seafood, chicken, or, as Kimball suggests, a simple fried egg. We ate it as a light meal with sautéed chard with garlic and cumin. I loved the layers of spices. I used serrano chiles instead of bird’s-eye chiles.

Yield: Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 cup white Basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T grapeseed or other neutral oil (I used canola oil)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp brown or black mustard seeds
  • 2 serrano or bird’s-eye chiles, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  1. In a bowl, combine the rinsed rice with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain the rice very well
  2. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the 1 1/4 cups water and tomato paste; whisk until dissolved. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium, combine the oil, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, chiles, garlic, and ginger. Cook until the seeds begin to pop and the mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the rice and salt and cook, stirring, until coated with oil, about 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the water-tomato paste mixture and bring to a simmer.
  6. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until the water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from the heat, add the tomatoes and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
  8. Stir in the cilantro, fluffing the rice with a fork.

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