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.

Meyer Lemon Bars with Lemon Shortbread Crust

I love Meyer lemons! I am even dreaming of having a Meyer lemon tree in my house. 🙂

This dessert recipe was adapted from ViewfromtheGreatIsland.com. They are made with an entire Meyer lemon- minus the seeds. The crust incorporates the zest from another entire lemon which made them packed with flavor. It was essential to eat them cold, after being chilled for four hours to overnight, so they must be made in advance.

Yield: about 12 servings (one 9×9-inch pan)

For the Crust:

  • zest from one Meyer lemon
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces

For the Filling:

  • 1 whole Meyer lemon, about 4-6 ounces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • pinch of coarse salt

To Prepare:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Grease and line a 9×9 inch pan with parchment paper.

To Make the Crust:

  1. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the zest from one Meyer lemon, taking only the yellow part, with little to none of the white part, which is bitter.
  2. Put the zest and sugar into a food processor and process until the two are well combined and the zest has completely incorporated into the sugar. You will still see tiny specks of zest, but no big pieces. Keep processing until you get to that stage.
  3. Add the flour, and cold butter to the bowl and pulse/process until the mixture is moist, crumbly, and almost comes together into a lump.
  4. Sprinkle the crust mixture into your prepared baking pan and pat down firmly and evenly. You should have a layer of even thickenss.
  5. Bake for about 17 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Thinly slice the second Meyer lemon and remove any seeds. Tip: do this over a bowl so you don’t lose any juice.
  2. Put the lemon and accumulated juice into a high speed blender like Vitamix or a food processor.
  3. Add the sugar to the lemon and puree until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the container, if necessary, to get a smooth puree.
  4. Add the eggs, cornstarch, and salt, and purée briefly until well combined.
  5. Pour the filling mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps or bubbles.
  6. Pour the strained filling onto the hot crust immediately after it comes out of the oven.
  7. Put the lemon bars back into the oven and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until firm and just starting to take on some golden color. Don’t over bake.
  8. Let the bars cool completely on a rack, then put them in the refrigerator to chill for 4 hours or up to overnight.
  9. When cold, remove the bars using the parchment paper “handles,” and slice into squares.
  10. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Butter Chicken

This version of Indian butter chicken was lusciously creamy and subtly spicy. My entire house smelled like butter while it cooked- wonderful! According to the article, butter chicken was created in the early 20th century as a way to soften leftover tandoori chicken with tomatoes, butter, and cream. Genius.

I served it over brown Basmati rice along with warm naan on the side to soak up all of the sauce. We also had roasted asparagus.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Rick Martinez. I marinated the meat for 3 hours, reduced the number of cardamom pods, and used the fenugreek leaves but omitted the fenugreek seeds.

For the Marinade:

  • ½ cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek leaves, optional
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For the Sauce and Assembly:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) cultured or unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 3 to 5 green cardamom pods
  • 1 whole clove
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds, optional
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 serrano chiles, split lengthwise (seeded, if desired)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fenugreek leaves, optional
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • chopped cilantro, Brown basmati rice, and naan, for serving

To Make the Marinade:

  1. Whisk yogurt, garlic, fenugreek leaves, if using, ginger, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Add chicken and toss to coat.
  3. Cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

For the Sauce and to Serve:

  1. Melt 4 T butter in a large wide pot over medium heat.
  2. Cook cinnamon, cardamom pods, clove, and fenugreek seeds, if using, stirring, until slightly darker and fragrant, 1–2 minutes.
  3. Add onion and chiles, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden and beginning to caramelize, 8–10 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until very fragrant and ginger starts to turn golden and sticks to bottom of pot, 2–3 minutes.
  5. Add fenugreek leaves, if using, garam masala, paprika, and turmeric and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Add tomatoes, breaking up into pieces with a spoon, and cook until brick red and most of the liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute.
  7. Using a potato masher or large spoon, smash tomatoes and continue to simmer, uncovered, until sauce is the consistency of a thick ragù, 40–50 minutes.
  8. Discard cinnamon stick (leave other whole spices).
  9. Transfer mixture to a blender and purée until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  10. Cut remaining 4 T butter into pieces. Add butter and cream to blender and purée until creamy; season with salt.
  11. Return sauce to pot and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, preheat broiler.
  12. Arrange chicken in a single layer on a wire rack set inside a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  13. Broil until chicken starts to brown in spots (it will not be cooked through), 7–8 minutes per side.
  14. When cool enough to handle, cut into ¾” pieces.
  15. Add chicken to simmering sauce, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, 8–10 minutes.
  16. Top chicken and sauce with cilantro. Serve with rice and naan alongside.

Note: Butter chicken can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.

Roast Chicken with Roasted-Garlic Pan Sauce

This dinner was like a mini-Thanksgiving feast. 🙂 I served the chicken with roasted gold and sweet potatoes, broccoli, and acorn squash. The incredibly flavorful, rich sauce made the meal complete.

This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by José Andrés. It was inspired by the rotisserie chicken and sauce made by the Morales family at El Asador de Nati in Córdoba, Spain. The sauce incorporates the pan drippings with an entire head of roasted garlic. Wonderful.

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper and place in a large ovenproof skillet (I used a 12″ sauté pan) along with the head of garlic, cut sides down. Roast for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until 
an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part 
of the chicken breast registers 160°. (I used the oven probe.)
  3. Transfer the chicken 
and garlic to a cutting board; let rest for 15 minutes. Pour the pan drippings into a heatproof bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, in the skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, bell pepper, minced garlic and a generous pinch of salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the wine, bay leaf, thyme and the reserved pan drippings.
  6. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the sauce and bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer over moderately low heat until slightly reduced, 5 minutes.
  7. Discard the bay leaf. Transfer to a blender, add 2 tablespoons of water and puree until very smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. (I used a Vitamix.)
  8. Carve the chicken and transfer to a platter. Drizzle with sauce and serve additional roasted-garlic pan sauce on the side.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Speaking of strawberry cocktails… the added bonus of this amazing fresh strawberry ice cream is that the sweetened vodka-based macerating liquid makes a wonderful base for a celebratory summer cocktail. Nice! 🙂

The texture and color of this ice cream was absolutely incredible. It was the perfect use for my precious, freshly-picked strawberries. The ice cream recipe is from Martha Stewart Living; I included a recipe for the bonus cocktail below.

For the Ice Cream:

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved (about 3 cups), plus 8 ounces more, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup more for macerating
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup vodka or silver tequila
  1. In a blender or Vitamix, puree halved strawberries with lemon juice and salt. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. (You should have 1 1/2 cups of puree; reserve any excess for another use.)
  2. Combine milk, cream, 2/3 cup sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes.
  3. Strain mixture into a bowl set in an ice bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in strawberry puree. Refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  5. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and vodka. Add chopped strawberries and macerate at room temperature at least 2 hours, or in the refrigerator, covered, up to 12 hours.
  6. Process puree mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it has the texture of soft serve, drain macerated berries (reserving syrup for another use) and fold into ice cream.
  7. Transfer to a loaf pan and freeze, wrapped in plastic, at least 4 hours and up to 1 week.
  8. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

For the Bonus Cocktail:

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • fresh juice from 1/4 large lime
  • 3 oz strawberry-vodka-sugar macerating syrup
  • tonic (for a sweeter cocktail) or seltzer (less sweet), as desired
  1. Combine lime juice and macerated strawberry syrup in a glass.
  2. Fill with ice and top with tonic or seltzer, as desired.

Vanilla Flan

After gobbling up a double batch of chips and guacamole followed by Sam Sifton’s Middle School Tacos, we ate this flan as our celebratory Cinco de Mayo dessert this year.

A while ago, my son read a book that mentioned flan and he really wanted to make it. We actually made it together at that time. 🙂  It really is quite simple to prepare, and he felt like he had achieved a great accomplishment when it came out well. He’s been asking to have it again ever since!

I think that it is particularly delicious served with strawberries. This recipe is a blend of multiple flan recipes- including one from my grandmother.

Yield: One 8-inch flan

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (low fat can be substituted)
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • strawberries, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan; bring to a simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, occasionally swirling, until amber, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Pour into a 1 1/2 to 2 qt (8-in) ceramic baking dish or 8-in cake pan, tilting to cover the bottom surface and halfway up the sides of the dish.
  5. Place the prepared dish on a dish towel or a silicone pot holder (to prevent it from shifting) inside a roasting pan. (I used an enameled cast iron lasagna pan.)
  6. Place the eggs, condensed milk, evaporated milk, vanilla, and salt in a Vitamix. Blend for 20 seconds. (Alternatively, mixture can be whisked in a bowl until combined.)
  7. Pour through a fine strainer into the prepared pan.
  8. Slide the oven rack out and place the roasting pan on the hot rack.
  9. Fill the outside of the pan with HOT water halfway up the sides of the flan dish.
  10. Bake for 60-70+ minutes, or until the center is wobbly.
  11. Remove from the oven; let cool to room temperature.
  12. Remove flan from the water bath. Cool and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  13. Dip the bottom of the dish in warm water, then invert onto a rimmed platter. Serve.

One Year Ago: Cheesy Enchilada Skillet

Two Years Ago: Cinco de Mayo Chicken-Chipotle Tacos

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