Cowboy Caviar

My daughter was absolutely obsessed with making cowboy caviar this summer. This recipe made a large volume. The leftovers were perfect to have available to eat as a side, a dip, or over salad greens. Everyone loved it.

This version was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Margaux Laskey. We ate it with tortilla chips and grilled chicken sausages for dinner. ­čÖé I served the diced mango as an additional topping on the side to please everyone in my crowd.

Yield: 8 cups

  • 5 T olive oil
  • 4 T freshly squeezed lime juice or red wine vinegar
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 beefsteak tomato, seeded, cored, and diced plus 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or any combination of tomatoes resulting about 1 cup diced)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans or black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 2 to 4 cobs) or thawed, drained frozen sweet corn (about 8 ounces)(I used kernels from 3 ears of corn)
  • 1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 jalape├▒o, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish, if desired
  • 1 avocado, diced, optional
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled, optional
  • 1 mango, diced, optional
  • 1-2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped, for garnish, optional
  • tortilla chips, for serving
  1. Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to combine.
  2. Cut the corn kernels off the cob directly into the bowl with the dressing.
  3. Add the tomatoes, red onion, black beans, pinto/black-eyed peas, bell pepper, jalape├▒o and cilantro. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.
  5. To serve, toss well and season to taste. Add the diced avocado, crumbled feta, and diced mango, if using.
  6. Transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with scallions and serve with tortilla chips. (Alternatively, the avocado can also be served over the top.)

Avocado-Chicken Burgers

The only drawback of these flavor-packed chicken burgers is that they have to be pan-cooked in order to keep their shape because they are very moist. Worth the mess!

The original recipe notes that the ginger, garlic, cilantro and scallions incorporated into the burger makes them similar to a dumpling filling. They were fresh and light.

I loved the soy-lime mayonnaise sauce and loads of toppings. I served them with a generous amount of sauce, and jalape├▒o and avocado slices on potato rolls. There were so many toppings that we forgot to add lettuce! I may even try them topped with arugula next time.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I used freshly ground chicken thigh meat and froze the formed burgers for 20 minutes prior to cooking. We ate them with pickles and chips.

Yield: Serves 4

freezer for 20 min before cooking

  • 1/3┬ácup mayonnaise
  • 1┬átsp soy sauce or fish sauce
  • 1┬álime, cut into wedges
  • ┬áKosher salt
  • 1┬ápacked cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped, plus more for serving
  • 1/4┬ácup mashed, ripe Hass avocado (from about 1/2 avocado; slice the other half for serving)
  • 2┬áscallions, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 3┬álarge garlic cloves, grated, minced, or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1┬á(2-inch) piece ginger, grated or minced (about 2 tsp)
  • 1/4┬áto 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1┬ápound ground chicken, preferably dark meat (I used freshly ground chicken thighs)
  • 2┬áT neutral oil, such as canola oil, or ghee
  • 4┬ápotato, brioche, or other burger buns, lightly toasted, as desired
  • ┬ábutter lettuce or other tender lettuce, for serving, or arugula
  • 1┬ájalape├▒o, thinly sliced, for serving, optional

To Make the Sauce:

  1. In a small serving bowl, combine the mayonnaise and soy sauce.
  2. Season with the juice of 1 lime wedge and salt as needed.

To Make the Burgers:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to mash and thoroughly combine the chopped cilantro, mashed avocado (see Tip), scallions, garlic, ginger, red-pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the soy-lime mayonnaise sauce.
  2. Add the chicken and gently combine. Form into 4 large balls.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for 20 minutes to help maintain the shape while cooking.
  4. Heat a large (12-inch) cast-iron or heavy skillet over medium heat until very hot, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the neutral oil or ghee, then add the chicken meatballs, spacing them out in the pan. (We cooked 2 at a time.)
  6. Use a metal spatula to press them until they form 1/2-inch-thick patties.
  7. Cook without moving for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, until a deep golden crust has formed and they easily release from the pan.
  8. Flip the patties using the spatula and cook until done with a nice crust on the other side, about 3 minutes more. If the patties need more time, cover the pan and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to avoid scorching.
  9. Squeeze a lime wedge over the patties and serve sandwiched between the buns topped with lettuce, a healthy slathering of sauce, avocado slices, jalape├▒o slices if using, and cilantro sprigs, if desired.
  10. Serve with the remaining lime wedges and mayonnaise on the side.

Tip: Resist the urge to add more than 1/4 cup mashed avocado to the ground chicken, as the burgers will get too soft and fall apart during cooking.

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┬átablespoons┬ácanola oil, divided
  • 1┬álarge Spanish onion, finely diced
  • 8┬ácloves┬ágarlic, mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2┬átsp┬áancho chile powder
  • 1┬átsp┬águajillo chile powder (I ground a guajillo chile in a spice grinder)
  • 1┬átsp┬áchipotle powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder, optional (next time I would omit it)
  • 1┬átsp┬áground coriander
  • 1┬átsp┬áground cumin
  • 2┬áT┬átomato paste
  • 1┬á(12-ounce) bottle┬ádark beer (I used a Fat Tire amber)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can┬ápeeled whole plum tomatoes, undrained (I used San Marzano)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1┬áT┬áfinely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2┬álarge portobello mushrooms (about 11 oz), stems discarded, caps cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 6┬ácups┬á1/2-inch-diced peeled eggplant (1 large or 2 medium, about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1┬á(15.5-ounce) can┬áblack beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4┬ácup┬áchopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2┬áscallions, green tops and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1┬átablespoon┬áclover honey

To Serve:

  • Cumin-Lime Yogurt (recipe above)
  • Avocado-Shishito Relish (recipe above)
  • 1/2┬ácup┬ácoarsely grated or crumbled queso blanco
  • 1/4┬ácup┬áfinely 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! ­čÖé The camping was combined with another event on their summer bucket list- a “dip-night.” (inspired by TikTok ­čśë )

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 jalape├▒os, 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 jalape├▒os 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. ­čÖé 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 jalape├▒o
  • 3┬áT┬áolive 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 jalape├▒o 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 jalape├▒o 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 jalape├▒o 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 jalape├▒o. 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.)

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