Pasta with Pestocado (Avocado Pesto) & Broccoli

According to America’s Test Kitchen, Pestocado is the “hottest new ‘it’ sauce.” Avocado replaces the cheese in this full-flavored pesto. It was creamy and delicious.

The recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbook, More Mediterranean, via americastestkitchen.com. I modified the method and used linguine fini, Meyer lemon, walnuts, and two garlic cloves. Easy and great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 T table salt, for cooking broccoli and pasta
  • 12 to 16 ounces broccoli, florets cut into 1-inch pieces, stalks peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound spaghettini, or spaghetti
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved and pitted
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios or walnuts, toasted and chopped, divided
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed
  • 2 tsp toasted fennel seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 1 tablespoon juice (I used Meyer lemon)
  • 1/4 cup (4 T) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat an oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Coarsely chop.
  2. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add 1 tablespoon table salt and broccoli stalks and cook for 1 minute. Add florets and cook until stalks and florets are tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Using slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to colander set over bowl (do not discard boiling water). Let broccoli drain and cool slightly, about 5 minutes; set aside.
  4. Add pasta to reserved boiling water and cook, stirring often, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot.
  5. Process 1 cup broccoli, 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, avocado, basil, 1/4 cup chopped nuts, anchovies, fennel seeds, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and coarse salt in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. With processor running, slowly add oil until incorporated, about 15 seconds.
  7. Add pesto to pasta in pot and toss until sauce evenly coats pasta, adjusting consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed.
  8. Stir in remaining broccoli and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup pistachios. Garnish with fresh basil and drizzle with extra oil, as desired. Serve.

Bobby Flay’s Vegetable Chili with Cumin-Lime Yogurt & Avocado-Shishito Relish

Wow. This was the best vegetarian chili I have ever experienced. It was a little bit labor intensive to prepare but the house smelled incredible and the resulting meal was worth the work.

This recipe was adapted from Bobby Flay’s new cookbook, Beat Bobby Flay, via today.com. Even after decreasing and adjusting the chili powders in the recipe, the chili was on the spicy side. It was well tempered with all of the toppings and I also served it over rice to balance the heat. Next time, I may omit one teaspoon of chili powder, noted below.

I loved all of the toppings and garnishes. The cotija cheese was absolutely essential. Healthy and fabulous vegetarian comfort food.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Cumin-Lime Yogurt: (Makes 1 cup)

  • 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
  • 1 lime, finely zested and juiced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Avocado-Shishito Relish: (Makes about 2 cups)

  • 2 Hass avocados, cut into large dice
  • 2 T finely diced red onion
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 shishito peppers

For the Vegetable Chili:

  • 8 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
  • 8 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 tsp guajillo chile powder (I ground a guajillo chile in a spice grinder)
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder, optional (next time I would omit it)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer (I used a Fat Tire amber)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can peeled whole plum tomatoes, undrained (I used San Marzano)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms (about 11 oz), stems discarded, caps cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 6 cups 1/2-inch-diced peeled eggplant (1 large or 2 medium, about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 scallions, green tops and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon clover honey

To Serve:

  • Cumin-Lime Yogurt (recipe above)
  • Avocado-Shishito Relish (recipe above)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated or crumbled queso blanco
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Cotija cheese
  • fried tortillas strips or crumbled tortilla chips, for garnish (optional)
  • cornbread or cornbread muffins, for serving, optional

To Make the Cumin-Lime Yogurt:

  1. Whisk together the yogurt, lime zest, lime juice, and cumin in a small bowl.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours before serving.

To Make the Avocado-Shishito Relish:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the avocado, onion, lime juice, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  2. Using a fork, coarsely mash the ingredients together.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat the oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over high heat until shimmering.
  5. Add the shishitos, season with salt and pepper, and cook until charred on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool for a few minutes, then finely dice.
  6. Gently fold in the diced shishitos into the avocado mixture to combine.

Note: The relish can be made up to 4 hours in advance, tightly covered and refrigerated.

To Make the Vegetable Chili:

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  2. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.
  4. Add all of the chile powders, the coriander, and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, until the spices are fragrant and deepen in color, about 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add the beer and cook over medium heat until the mixture is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften and break down, about 10 minutes. Using a potato masher or wooden spoon, coarsely mash the tomatoes.
  8. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the oregano. Cook until the sauce starts to thicken, about 20 minutes.
  9. While the sauce is cooking, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over high heat.
  10. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring a few times, until golden brown and their liquid has evaporated, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large bowl.
  11. Return the skillet to the heat and add the remaining 3 tablespoons oil.
  12. Working in batches, add the eggplant in a single layer, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring a few times, until golden brown and soft, about 5 minutes per batch. Add more oil, if necessary. (I cooked the eggplant in 3 batches.) Transfer the eggplant to the bowl of mushrooms.
  13. Add the eggplant, mushrooms, and black beans to the tomato sauce and stir to combine.
  14. Cook for 15 minutes to meld the flavors and thicken the mixture.
  15. Stir in the cilantro and scallions and season with the honey, salt and pepper.

To Serve:

  1. Ladle the chili into bowls, top with a dollop of the cumin-lime yogurt and avocado-shishito relish.
  2. At the table, pass the queso blanco and Cotija cheeses, as well as some tortilla chips, if desired, to sprinkle over the top of the chili.
  3. Offer cornbread or cornbread muffins on the side, if desired.

Mexican Layer Dip

My daughter recently had a camp out with a few friends in our backyard. They slept in a giant, 14-person tent. What fun! 🙂 The camping was combined with another event on their summer bucket list- a “dip-night.” (inspired by TikTok 😉 )

The girls each contributed a different dip, savory or sweet, to create the feast. We made this Mexican layer dip and served it with tortilla chips and Trader Joe’s corn dippers. The recipe was adapted from ThePioneerWoman.com. I loved that her version incorporated warm beans as the base of the dip. It was an easy crowd-pleaser.

  • 1 can refried beans (I used Trader Joe’s Fat Free Refried Beans)
  • hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula, to taste (I omitted it for this crowd)
  • 1 can diced green chilies (I used Trader Joe’s mild green chilies)
  • ground cumin, to taste
  • 3/4 to 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (mild or sharp)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • freshly made guacamole (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 cup Pico de Gallo (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 can sliced black olives (I omitted them)
  • kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish, optional
  • sliced or diced jalapeños, for garnish, optional
  • tortilla chips (and/or other corn chips), for serving
  1. Begin by heating the refried beans in a small pan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add one or two dashes of hot sauce, if using, and a small can of undrained diced green chilies. Stir well.
  3. Sprinkle the bean-chile mixture with a little bit of ground cumin. Stir to incorporate.
  4. Spread the beans on the bottom of a glass bowl or high-sided or wide serving dish.
  5. Sprinkle the shredded cheddar evenly over the top.
  6. Next, dollop the sour cream over the cheese. Spread it into a single layer, as much as possible, being careful not to disturb the cheese underneath.
  7. The next layer is the guacamole. (I used my favorite guacamole recipe (link above) using 2 avocados and garlic-chipotle salsa. This time, I omitted our traditional add-ins of chopped tomatoes and red onions.)
  8. Next, sprinkle an even layer of shredded Monterey Jack cheese over the guacamole.
  9. Top with a generous layer of Pico de Gallo.
  10. Sprinkle chopped black olives over the top, if using.
  11. Microwave an ear of fresh corn for 1 minute on high. When cool enough to handle, place upright in a bowl and slice of the kernels. Sprinkle the kernels over the top as the final layer.
  12. Garnish with jalapeños and cilantro, if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.

Creamy Cucumber-Avocado Salad

This fabulously easy salad was creamy and delicious. We ate it as a side with grilled vegetable and fresh ricotta sandwiches, but it could also be served as a light summertime main dish.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen.com. I used avocado mayonnaise, chipotle Cholula hot sauce, and cilantro. My kids thought that it tasted like guacamole. 🙂 Great.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

  • 1 seedless cucumber (about 3/4 to 1 pound), washed and chopped into chunks
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and diced
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (I used avocado mayonnaise)
  • juice of half a lime, plus more to taste
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • hot sauce, such as Sriracha or Chipotle Cholula, to taste
  • chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
  1. Combine cucumber, scallions and avocado in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice, salt, and hot sauce; adjust to taste.
  3. Drizzle salad with dressing and garnish with chopped herbs.

Grilled Corn & Avocado Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing

I have a few side dishes to share showcasing sweet summer corn. The romaine lettuce base and generous sliced avocado and grilled corn topping made this a must try summer salad. I love salads with loads of toppings.

My entire family loves creamy blue cheese dressing (who doesn’t?), so I knew that a creamy feta dressing loaded with fresh herbs would be the icing on the cake.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sue Li. I only used half of the prepared dressing in the finished salad.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 6 ears corn (about 3 pounds), shucked and silk removed
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 6), trimmed
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 3 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 medium head romaine lettuce, cut or torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  1. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high.
  2. Brush corn, scallions and jalapeño with the oil and season with salt and pepper. (I didn’t oil the corn.)
  3. Arrange on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until corn kernels are browned in spots and the scallions and jalapeño are charred all over and tender, about 10 minutes, a little longer for the corn.
  4. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board and let cool slightly.
  5. When cool, remove charred jalapeño skin. Then remove the stem and seeds. Finely chop.
  6. In a medium bowl, using a whisk, mash the feta into a coarse paste. Whisk in buttermilk, lemon zest and juice and garlic, then stir in chives, parsley, and charred jalapeño. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. In a large bowl, toss lettuce with half the feta dressing and arrange on a platter or salad bowl.
  8. Cut corn kernels off the cob and slice scallions into bite-size pieces.
  9. Arrange avocado slices, corn and scallions on top of the lettuce. Serve with remaining dressing or add additional dressing, as desired. (I reserved 1/2 the dressing for another use.)

Mushroom Tacos with Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce

More tacos to share! I served these full-flavored vegetarian tacos for our Cinco de Mayo celebration this year- with margaritas, chips, and guacamole, of course.

The recipe was adapted from The Essential Mexican Instant Pot Cookbook: Authentic Flavors and Modern Recipes for your Electric Pressure Cooker by Deborah Schneider. I used a stove top pressure cooker instead of an instant pot, but this filling could be prepared just as easily without using a pressure cooker at all. The creamy avocado sauce was amazing!

The original recipe is for “quesotacos” which the author describes as black-belt street cooking, made by browning a layer of cheese right on a griddle, scooping it up with a tortilla, and using that to wrap the filling. I opted to serve the filling over the shredded cheese in a traditional taco form. This wonderful filling is also used in enchiladas in this book. Yum!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6, with about 1 cup of Avocado-Tomatillo sauce

For the Avocado-Tomatillo Sauce:

  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 2 tomatillos, husked and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced white onion
  • 1/2 serrano chile, stemmed (and seeded, if desired)
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • leaves from 2 sprigs cilantro, chopped (about 1 T)

For the Mushroom Tacos:

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 1-inch dice (2 cups) (I reserved 1/4 cup of the onion for the sauce)
  • 9 garlic cloves, minced (3 T)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 to 10 oz cremini mushroom, sliced or cut into quarters
  • 8 to 10 oz white button mushrooms, sliced or cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves or shredded fresh epazote
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 corn or corn-wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese or grated Cojita cheese
  • Avocado-Tomatillo sauce, for serving
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

To Make the Sauce:

  1. In a food processor, combine the avocado, tomatillos, onion, Serrano Chile, water, and salt.
  2. Pulse until fairly smooth, about 10 pulses, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the cilantro and pulse a couple of times to combine.
  4. Transfer to a bowl, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt if needed.

Note: The Sauce will keep well for 24 hours, covered and refrigerated.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Place poblano chiles on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  2. Broil the poblano chiles in the oven, rotating every 5 to 7 minutes, until charred and blistered on all sides. (I set my oven to Broil Max at 450F.)
  3. Wrap the chiles in the foil lining, to loosen the charred skin with steam.
  4. When cool enough to handle, peel, seed and dice the roasted chiles.
  5. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker, instant pot, or dutch oven.
  6. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.
  8. Add the water, salt, portobello mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and white mushrooms, then stir in the cilantro/epazote.
  9. If using a pressure cooker or instant pot, secure the lip and cook on high for 1 minute. (Alternatively, cook the mixture in a Dutch oven until mushrooms have released a significant amount of moisture and are lightly browned.)
  10. Use the quick pressure release. (I rotate the valve into a perpendicular position on the top of my pressure cooker.)
  11. Set a colander in a bowl. Pour the mushroom mixture into the colander, reserving the liquid in the bowl.
  12. Set the colander aside and return the liquid to the pot.
  13. Bring the liquid to a boil, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until syrupy and very thick.
  14. Return the mushroom mixture to the pot and stir in the black pepper, pepper flakes, and roasted and diced poblano chiles.
  15. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until heated through.
  16. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired.
  17. Serve the mushroom filling in warm tortillas over shredded Monterey Jack and crumbled feta. Top with sauce, minced cilantro, and extra cheese, as desired.

For “Quesotacos”:  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly oil, place a tortilla in the pan and toast for about 3 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the tortilla and top with 2 T of Jack cheese and 1 T of feta/Cojita. Continue toasting until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes more. Top with mushroom mixture, sauce, sprinkle of cheese, and pinch of cilantro. Serve immediately.

For a Grilled Corn & Mushroom Variation: Add kernels from 2 ears of grilled corn to the pot after adding the roasted poblano chiles.

Easy Taco Skillet Dinner

I love a quick skillet dinner- especially on a weeknight. This delicious family friendly meal is from my friend Mollie @Frugal Hausfrau. I have made it a couple of times, most recently for our Super Bowl celebration. Our meal has to complement the mandatory Super Bowl guacamole. 🙂

Even though it could be served as is straight from the skillet, we ate it in both soft and hard shell tacos. (The hard shells won as the favorite, by the way.) I think that eating it as a pre-mixed taco filling made it even more of a crowd-pleaser. I modified the recipe by using ground turkey and by increasing the beans, onions, and garlic. Great!

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Sriracha
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted diced tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup salsa (I used Trader Joe’s garlic chipotle salsa)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) black beans, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup white Basmati rice
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack
  • 1 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • hard or soft taco shells, for serving, if desired
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish, as desired
  • sliced avocado, for garnish, as desired
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish, as desired

  1. In a large skillet with a lid, over medium high heat, add ground meat and cook, crumbling as it cooks.
  2. As soon as it starts to give up the juices, add in the onion and bell pepper, continuing to cook until the vegetables have softened and the meat is cooked through.
  3. Add the garlic, stirring for a minute or so until it becomes fragrant.
  4. Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper; briefly stir.
  5. Stir in tomatoes with the juice, salsa, black beans, and hot sauce.
  6. Toss the rice on top and add the 1 1/4 cup of water. Gently stir together, bring to a boil.
  7. Cover with lid and reduce to a bare simmer. Cook for 25 minutes until rice is just done. If possible, don’t lift the lid or stir until rice is finished.
  8. Turn off the heat. Using a spatula, gently turn the mixture from top to bottom. Add cheese to the top. Cover with lid and let sit for five minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  9. Serve in warm taco shells garnished with green onions, avocado, and/or minced cilantro, as desired.

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