Cucumber Caesar Salad with Dill & Crispy-Spicy Panko

This is another flavor-packed adaptation of a classic. It was a wonderful way to enjoy the bounty of delicious summer cucumbers. Although this version is lighter than a classic Caesar, I was initially concerned that the dressing may be too potent. No worries! It was perfect.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Zaynab Issa. I modified the method and proportions, used cucumbers from my CSA share, and used harissa instead of Calabrian chile paste. I loved the generous volume of fresh dill.

We enjoyed it with grilled chicken thighs and and roasted potatoes. Great.

For the Crispy-Spicy Panko Topping:

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Harissa or Calabrian chile paste (or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal)

For the Salad & Assembly:

  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 T anchovy paste or 5 drained oil-packed anchovy fillets, smashed
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt, plus more (or 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal)
  • 5 peeled, halved, and seeded cucumbers or 3 European hothouse cucumbers, cut on a diagonal into 1″ pieces
  • 2 oz Parmesan, shaved (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 cup dill, chopped

To Make the Crispy-Spicy Panko Topping:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  2. Add the chile paste and stir into the warm oil.
  3. Add panko and salt (and crushed red pepper flakes, if using instead of chile paste) and cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer spicy breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl; set aside.

Do ahead: Breadcrumbs can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

To Make the Salad & To Assemble:

  1. Whisk garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, anchovies, mustard, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
  2. If using regular cucumbers: peel, slice in half, and seed them. (I used a melon baller to seed them.)
  3. Add the cucumber slices; toss well to coat.
  4. Add shaved Parmesan and top with dill. Gently toss to distribute evenly.
  5. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.
  6. Just before serving, transfer cucumber salad to a platter and spoon reserved spicy breadcrumbs on top. (I reserved some of the breadcrumbs to pass at the table.)

Do ahead: Dressing can be made 3 days ahead; cover and chill. Salad (without breadcrumbs) can be made 3 hours ahead; cover and chill.

Chicken Parm Burgers

I loved the idea of transforming one of our absolute favorite comfort food dishes into a summer dinner made on the grill. The burgers were very moist and packed with flavor. We ate them on potato rolls with coleslaw, potato chips, pickles, and watermelon. Perfect!

This recipe was adapted form The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. We grilled the burgers, increased the amount of garlic, and used sliced fresh mozzarella. Cheesy and delicious.

Yield: Serves 4

  • olive oil or cooking oil spray
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey, preferably dark meat
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 (1/4-inch thick) slices from a large ripe tomato
  • 4 (1/-4 inch thick) slices fresh mozzarella or 1/2 cup grated fresh or low-moisture mozzarella
  • potato rolls, burger buns or ciabatta rolls
  • baby spinach or arugula, for serving
  1. Lightly grease a large plate with olive oil or cooking oil spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, tomato paste, garlic and 1 teaspoon salt.
  3. Gently incorporate the ground meat into the cheese mixture.
  4. Working the meat as little as possible, form 4 patties that are each about 4 1/2 inches wide and about 1/2 cup or 135 grams.
  5. Transfer to the greased plate, cover, and refrigerate. (This helps maintain the shape and also prevents the juices and fat from leaking.)
  6. On a rimmed plate, sprinkle the tomato slices with salt.
  7. If using grated mozzarella, stir together the mozzarella and the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
  8. Preheat a grill to medium heat. (I used a griddle on the grill and preheated it at this time too.)
  9. Toast the buns on the preheated grill, if desired. (I omitted this step.)
  10. Oil the grill griddle and add the patties. Cook until browned underneath, 3 to 5 minutes. (Reduce heat if the patties are burning.)
  11. Flip the patties, top each with 1/2 tablespoon of the grated Parmesan cheese followed by a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese (or with the combination of grated cheeses, if using).
  12. Cover the grill with the lid and cook until the cheese is melted and the patties are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  13. Pat the tomatoes dry.
  14. To each bottom bun, add a handful of baby spinach or arugula, followed by a slice of tomato, a chicken patty and its top bun. Serve hot with chips and coleslaw, as desired.

Vietnamese-American Garlic Noodles

I’m a garlic girl but even I was worried that this dish was going to be so garlicky it may be overpowering. Nope. Twenty cloves!

This recipe was adapted from the cookbook “The Wok” by J. Kenji López-Alt, based on the noodle dish originally created and served by Helene An at San Francisco’s Thanh Long restaurant, via The New York Times.

Lopez-Alt uses the genius technique of cooking the pasta in a minimal amount of liquid which expedites the cooking process. The starch-concentrated pasta water is then used in the sauce. This dish was crazy quick to prepare and was absolutely packed with flavor. We ate it with roasted asparagus on the side.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 20 medium garlic cloves, minced or smashed in a mortar and pestle
  • 4 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce or shoyu
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti or linguine fini
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (heaping 1/4 cup)(I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  •  small handful of thinly sliced scallions (I used 4 scallions)
  1. Use a food processor to mince the garlic cloves, if desired. (I used a mini food processor.)
  2. Melt the butter in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. (I used a stainless all-in-one pan.)
  3. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce and fish sauce, and stir to combine. Remove from the heat.
  5. Meanwhile, bring 1 1/2 inches of water to a boil in a 12-​inch skillet or sauté pan over high heat. (Alternatively, heat up just enough water to cover the spaghetti in a large Dutch oven or saucepan.)
  6. Add the pasta, stir a few times to make sure it’s not clumping, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just shy of al dente (about 2 minutes short of the recommended cook time on the package). (I used linguine fini and cooked it for a total of 4 minutes.)
  7. Using tongs, transfer the cooked pasta to the garlic sauce, along with whatever water clings to it. Reserve the pasta water in the skillet; set aside.
  8. Increase the heat to high, add the cheese to the pasta and sauce, and stir with a wooden spatula or spoon, tossing vigorously until the sauce is creamy and emulsified, about 30 seconds. If the sauce looks too watery, let it keep reducing. If it looks greasy, splash some more pasta cooking water and let it re-​emulsify.
  9. Stir in the scallions and serve immediately.

Weeknight Fancy Ravioli

I have a couple delicious weeknight pasta recipes to share.

The original recipe for this dish described it as “weeknight fancy”- loved it. The spicy brown-butter coated walnut topping was an essential element to earn this description.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sarah Jampel. I served the flavorful sauce over arugula-parmesan ravioli and incorporated garlic and asparagus. I also modified the method. Any variety of store-bought ravioli would work with this dish.

Yield: Serves 4

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 10 oz package frozen peas (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup (lightly packed) basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 16–20 oz fresh or frozen ravioli (I used Trader Joe’s fresh Arugula & Parmesan Ravioli)
  • 4 T (1/4 cup) coarsely chopped raw walnuts or pistachios
  • 1 tsp Aleppo-style pepper
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces, optional
  1. Place the frozen peas in a fine-mesh sieve and place in a large pot of boiling salted water; cook until peas are tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Lift sieve from water to drain peas and basil and transfer to a blender. (I used a Vitamix.)(Alternatively, you can skip the sieve and use a spider or slotted spoon to fish out the peas and basil.)
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and keep cooking liquid warm. (You will use it for the sauce, ravioli and the asparagus, if using.)
  4. Add the basil, garlic, grated Parmesan, 2 tablespoons butter (cut into 4 pieces) and 1/2 cup cooking liquid to the blender with the peas.
  5. Blend, gradually increasing speed to high and adding up to 1/4 cup additional cooking liquid as needed, until you have a mostly smooth, fairly loose sauce; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. (I didn’t add any additional liquid.)
  6. Return cooking liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Add ravioli -and asparagus, if using. Cook, stirring gently to unstick, until tender, about 3 minutes or according to package directions. Drain reserving 1/2 cup of pasta liquid. Reserve pot.
  7. Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium-low heat.
  8. Add the chopped nuts and cook, stirring often, until butter begins to smell toasty and turn brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.
  9. Add Aleppo-style pepper, finely grate in lemon zest, and season lightly with salt; mix well.
  10. Slice lemon into wedges.
  11. Return cooked ravioli -and asparagus, if using- to pot, pour pea sauce over, and stir gently to coat. At this point, the consistency can be adjusted with reserved pasta water, if necessary. Using a large spoon, transfer ravioli to plates or a serving dish.
  12. Top with more Parmesan and basil, then spoon brown-butter nuts over the top. Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over, as desired. 

One-Pan Farro & Cauliflower Parmesan

I love vegetable-loaded comfort food. 🙂 This casserole dish also has farro, a favorite, and cheese, of course. My husband said he would have loved it even without the fresh mozzarella on top! Absolutely delicious.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Sarah DiGregorio. I doubled the amount of cauliflower, omitted the olives, used Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro, and modified the method and proportions.

We ate the casserole as a main course with garlic bread and green salad. It could also be served as a hearty side dish. The recipe is very adaptable and could be easily modified to incorporate other vegetables.

Yield: Serves 8

For the Farro and Cauliflower:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, florets and tender stems cut into large bite-sized pieces
  • 8.8 oz bag Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro
  • 1 (28 to 32-ounce) jar good-quality marinara sauce (I used Rao’s)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata or black olives, roughly chopped, optional (I omitted them)
  • 10 large garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 3 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano (about 3/4 cup finely grated)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano or dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic or sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup stock (can substitute water)
  • 2/3 cup water

For the Topping:

  • 1 cup panko
  • 2 ounces grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (about 1/2 cup finely grated)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 to 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds (I used 12 slices)
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. In a 9-by-13-inch pan, combine the cauliflower, farro, marinara sauce, olive oil, olives (if using), garlic, grated cheese, onion powder, oregano or basil, vinegar and red-pepper flakes. Season with the salt and a generous amount of black pepper.
  3. Pour in 1 cup stock and 2/3 cups water and stir well to combine. (can substitute with 1 2/3 cups water)
  4. Cover the pan tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, make the topping: Stir together the panko, grated cheese and olive oil.
  6. Uncover the pan and stir.
  7. Evenly cover the top with the panko topping.
  8. Top with the fresh mozzarella rounds.
  9. Continue baking uncovered until the farro is tender and chewy, the sauce is thick, the topping is browned, and the mozzarella has melted, about 10 to 15 minutes more. (I baked it for an additional 12 minutes on convection roast.) (I also put my garlic bread in the same oven at this point!)

Creamy Pappardelle with Chicken & Bacon

This quick comfort food dish uses store-bought rotisserie chicken as a shortcut. I loved the freshness and pop of color from the fresh herbs and the minced carrot.

The recipe was adapted from Antoni Let’s Do Dinner by Antoni Porowski of Queer Eye. My daughter and I are big Antoni fans! 🙂 I modified the proportions. Next time I would reduce the amount of chicken meat- just personal preference.

Yield: Serves 8

  • coarse salt
  • 8 oz bacon (about 5 slices), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch wide pieces
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, gently smashed and peeled
  • 1/2 T chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 T coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 16 oz pappardelle (I used two 227 g packages)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 4 to 6 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, at room temperature (I used 6 cups but would reduce the amount next time)
  • freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
  • coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving, optional
  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet large enough to hold the pasta and sauce or a wide heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until just cooked through with crispy edges, about 5 minutes. (I used an enameled cast iron pan.)
  3. Transfer the bacon to a plate, leaving the fat in the pan.
  4. Add the onion, garlic, sage, rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cream, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, add the pappardelle and carrots to the boiling water and cook until the pasta is al dente and the carrots are tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
  7. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the pasta cooking water.
  8. Add the pasta to the sauce with 3/4 cups of the pasta water, the chicken, and the reserved bacon. Toss to combine.
  9. Add more pasta water to loosen the sauce, if desired.
  10. Top with cheese, parsley, if using, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

One-Pot Turkey Chili with Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits

We ate this wonderful one-pot dish during the Super Bowl this year. The chili and biscuit dough can be made in advance, even several hours in advance, so it was perfect for the occasion. It also complemented our mandatory game day guacamole.

The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I modified the proportions to serve 8 people- so that we would have leftovers! 😉 I reheated the chili, topped it with the biscuit dough and placed it in the oven just before serving. Great.

Yield: Serves 8

For the Cornmeal Biscuits:

  • 1 cup/120 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup/92 grams fine yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 8 T/113 grams cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3/4 cup/177 ml buttermilk or plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
  • milk, more buttermilk, or yogurt, for finishing
  • 3+ tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano, for finishing

For the Turkey Chili:

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds ground turkey
  • 1 very large or 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1-2 jalapeños, seeded (if desired) and diced (I used 1 1/2 jalapeños)
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely grated, passed through a press or minced
  • 1 1/2 T chili powder
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more to taste, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes with juices (I used San Marzano)
  • 3 (15-ounce) cans pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • sour cream or Greek yogurt, for serving, optional
  • sliced or pickled jalapeños, for serving, optional

To Prepare the Biscuit Dough:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda.
  2. Using a pastry cutter (or your hands), cut (or rub) in the butter until mixture resembles rolled oats.
  3. Fold in the buttermilk and scallion slices.
  4. Gently stir mixture until it comes together in a moist, sticky mass. Cover bowl and refrigerate until ready to use. (This can be done a day in advance.)
  5. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.

To Prepare the Turkey Chili:

  1. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until it thins. (I used an enameled cast iron pan. A cast iron skillet would also be great.)
  2. Stir in turkey and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until it’s no longer pink with some browned bits, about 7 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, and add onion and jalapeño, and cook until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in garlic, chili powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, oregano, cumin, and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute longer.
  5. Using kitchen shears (or your hands), break up tomatoes and add them, along with the juices, to the pan. (I cut the tomatoes while they are still in the can.)
  6. Add beans and remaining 3/4 teaspoons salt, and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. If the mixture seems very dry, add a few tablespoons water. It should be juicy-looking but not wet.
  7. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Taste and add more salt, if needed.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Divide biscuit dough into 8 equal balls. Use your palm to flatten each ball into a 3/4-inch-thick disk. Arrange on top of turkey chili.
  2. Brush biscuits lightly with buttermilk, and sprinkle grated cheese on top.
  3. Transfer skillet to oven and cook until biscuits are golden at the edges, 20 to 30 minutes. (I cooked mine for 22 minutes on convection.)
  4. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional cilantro and scallions, if desired. Serve with sour cream and sliced or pickled jalapeños.

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