Spicy Pork Kebabs with Fennel, Cumin & Red Onion

This is a full-flavored, weeknight summer dish. I served it with sautéed Napa cabbage, grilled radicchio, grilled fennel, and brown Basmati rice on the side. We squeezed fresh lime juice over the grilled meat, but next time I may also serve it with a garlicky lime-yogurt sauce.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used cubed pork tenderloin instead of pork shoulder and modified the proportions.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 ¾ pounds boneless pork shoulder OR 2 pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lime, plus some wedges for serving
  • ¼ cup cilantro or basil, leaves and tender stems, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 jalapeño or other green chile, seeded if desired (I used an unseeded Serrano chile)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 small red onion, sliced, for serving
  1.  Season pork lightly with kosher salt and put it in a bowl or resealable bag.
  2. Juice the lime into a blender or food processor and add cilantro, fish sauce, garlic, chile and honey. Blend until the chile and garlic are puréed, then add fennel, cumin, coriander seeds and pulse four or five times to bruise the spices and mix them in.
  3. Pour mixture over the pork, tossing to coat the pieces. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while you heat the grill, or up to 24 hours.
  4. When ready to cook, heat the grill or broiler with a rack positioned 4 inches from the heat source.
  5. Thread the pork onto skewers, leaving a little space between cubes. Grill over the highest heat possible, or broil on high, for 2 to 5 minutes, then flip the skewers and continue cooking until the meat is browned all over and charred in spots. It should be just cooked through: A little pink is OK, but there shouldn’t be any red spots.
  6. Serve the pork with cilantro sprigs and onion slices on top, and lime wedges on the side for squeezing.

Watermelon Margaritas

I am a major fan of this pretty pink cocktail. It was very light, refreshing, and minimally sweet. Puréed watermelon is the only source of sweetness. Perfect.

This recipe was adapted from 3-Ingredient Cocktails by Robert Simonson, via The New York Times.  I did not strain the puréed watermelon and omitted the jalapeño slices. We tried it with both the cayenne and salt on the rim, and salt alone. Both were delicious. 😉

The original recipe recommends to taste and add more watermelon juice if your margarita is too boozy, and extra lime juice or even a pinch of salt if it’s too sweet.

Yield: 2 drinks

For the (optional) Salted Rim:

  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt or fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Tajín or 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)

For the Cocktail:

  • ice, as needed
  • 6 ounces fresh watermelon juice (from about 1 1/2 cups chopped seedless watermelon)(I used cubes from a mini watermelon)
  • 2 ounces tequila, preferably blanco
  • 2 ounces Cointreau
  • 2 ounces fresh lime juice (from 1 to 2 large limes), rinds reserved (I used 1 1/2 limes)
  • 2 to 3 thinly sliced jalapeño rounds, optional
  • small slices of watermelon, for garnish, optional
  1. Prepare the salted rim, if using: In a small shallow bowl or plate, combine the sea salt and Tajín or cayenne. Set aside.
  2. Blend the watermelon in a Vitamix or blender; strain if desired. (I left it puréed.)
  3. In a shaker filled with ice, combine the watermelon juice, tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and jalapeño (if using). Shake to combine. (Note: The watermelon flavor shines brighter without the Cointreau, but the liqueur takes the drink into more traditional margarita territory. If you’d like to compare, first try the mixture without, the liqueur, then add 1 ounce of it per serving.)
  4. Using one of the squeezed lime halves, run it along the rim of two margarita or rocks glasses, then dip the rims into the salt mixture.
  5. Fill the glasses with ice, then strain the margaritas into the glasses. Garnish with additional jalapeño slices and/or watermelon slices. Enjoy immediately.

Skillet Chicken Chili Cornbread Pie

This is another crowd-pleasing, one-pot, comfort food dish. I was immediately drawn to this recipe because making cast iron skillet cornbread on top of skillet chili is genius. Calling it a pie makes it even more fabulous!

This recipe was adapted from HowSweetEats.com. I modified the proportions and added thinly sliced kale to the chili. The smoked paprika was essential to the finished dish. Great.

Yield: Serves 6

For the Chili:

  • 1 large sweet or yellow onion, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups thinly sliced kale (ribs and stems removed)
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (I used grilled chicken thighs)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp coarse salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
For the Cornbread Topping:
  • 1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 T light brown sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
For Serving:
  • plain greek yogurt or sour cream
  • cilantro, chopped
  • scallions, sliced
  • corn
  • jalapeño slices
  • lime wedges
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, preferably on convection.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  3. Add the onions and garlic with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the thinly sliced kale leaves and continue to cook until tender, about 5 additional minutes.
  5. Stir in the diced green chiles and shredded chicken.
  6. Add in the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir well until the spices are combined with the mixture.
  7. Stir in the cannellini beans, corn and chicken stock. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Reduce the heat to low while you make the cornbread topping.
  8. In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt.
  9. In a smaller bowl, stir together the eggs and milk.
  10. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until just almost combined.
  11. Stir in the green chiles. Stir in the melted butter until combined.
  12. Drop spoonfuls of the cornbread over the chili, using the back of the spoon to spread it slightly, if necessary.
  13. Bake the skillet for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cornbread layer it set. Be sure to check that the cornbread is set in the center- sometimes it needs a few extra minutes to cook through.
  14. Serve with sour cream/greek yogurt, cilantro, scallions, corn, jalapeño, and limes for spritzing, as desired.

Shortcut Vegetarian Enchiladas with Butternut Squash & Black Beans

This crowd-pleasing casserole uses store bought enchilada sauce as a shortcut. I peeled and cut a butternut squash, but using pre-cut squash would be another easy shortcut. It was a wonderful vegetarian dish.

This recipe was adapted from Skinnytaste.com. I modified the proportions, used Monterey Jack cheese, and substituted corn tortillas for flour tortillas. I served the enchiladas with brown Basmati rice, refried beans, and Trader Joe’s Mexican street corn. Great!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 12 oz bottle of enchilada sauce (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small butternut squash, cut 1/2-inch-dice
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 10 oz can “original” Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 15.5 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 corn tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 scallions, sliced, for garnish
  • sour cream, for serving, optional (low-fat okay)
  • brown Basmati rice and refried beans, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, preferably on convection.
  2. Place 1/4 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. (I used a ceramic 9×13-inch baking dish.)
  3. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large skillet. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add cubed butternut squash, Rotel tomatoes, black beans, water, cilantro, cumin and chili powder and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 30 to 35 minutes. (Add more water if the mixture looks dry.)
  5. At the end of the cooking time for the filling, steam the tortillas. Place the corn tortillas in a tortilla warmer or on a plate and place a damp paper towel on top. Cover tightly (using plastic wrap if using a plate), and microwave for approximately 1 minute, or until they are warm and pliable. Keep covered until ready to fill.
  6. Place a generous 1/4 cup filling in the center of each tortilla and roll to close, placing in the baking dish seam side down. Repeat with the remaining filling. (I used a dry measuring cup to ration the filling.)
  7. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and shredded cheese.
  8. Bake, covered with foil until the sauce is bubbling and hot and the cheese is melted, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  9. Top with scallions and cilantro. Serve with sour cream, rice, and/or refried beans, as desired.

Turkey Corn Chowder with Bacon

This chowder was the best use of leftover turkey I’ve found so far. It was so wonderful, it may have to become the traditional recipe for leftover Thanksgiving turkey in my house. It was loaded with flavor and topped with bacon. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com, contributed by Rhoda Boone. It would also be wonderful with shredded rotisserie chicken.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 6 slices bacon (4 ounces)
  • 1 medium or large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds (halved lengthwise if large)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 medium jalapeño, finely chopped, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 6 cups (48 ounces) homemade or store-bought chicken or turkey stock
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Two 4-ounce cans mild diced green chiles, drained
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 4 cups shredded turkey or rotisserie chicken
  • 10 ounces frozen corn, thawed
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half, plus more to taste
  • sliced scallions, for serving
  • chopped parsley, for serving
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Drain on a paper towel and crumble into small pieces and set aside, reserving the fat in the pot. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat, and save for another use.
  3. Return the pot to medium heat, and add onion, carrot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes more.
  5. Add jalapeño and cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute more.
  6. Add stock, sweet potato, chiles, oregano, and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Cook until sweet potato is tender, about 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in the turkey or chicken and corn and cook until warmed through, 3 to 5 minutes.
  8. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and half-and-half. Continue to cook until just warmed through.
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning, thinning the chowder with another 1/4 cup half-and-half, if desired.
  10. Serve chowder topped with crumbled bacon, scallions, and parsley.

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.)

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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