This salad combines halved cherries and sliced fennel with a baked goat cheese round coated in sliced almonds. The recipe here isn’t really important; there are two key points I take from it. 1st, the combination of cherries and fennel rocks. And 2nd, the method for preparing the goat cheese is an delicious, healthier alternative to the typical fried goat cheese round you find on a restaurant salad. Other than these two points, you can play with this recipe any way you like. Any volume and variety of greens, cherries, and fennel will work for you here, or you could try other fruit and vegetable combinations. You could coat the goat cheese in finely chopped pecans instead of sliced almonds. And you can use any dressing that strikes your fancy. This time I used a mix I already had on hand made of raspberry balsamic vinegar, shallots, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. The tarragon in the original recipe goes well here though, so throw it in if you have it on hand. Enjoy!
After dinner at home one night last week, Jeff and I walked over to our neighborhood favorite, Watts Grocery, for dessert. It was a totally indulgent treat that made a weeknight feel special. I highly recommend trying a “dessert date.” The menu just switched over for the summer so all the options were new to us. We picked out a cheesecake with berry sauce, lemon curd, and a pecan crust. Of course it was absolutely divine.
Later that week I found myself searching through my dessert recipes, looking for something to make for a lunch for friends. I stumbled upon a Fine Cooking clipping for blueberry lemon bars and was reminded of the cheesecake. The flavor profiles are similar, with oats standing in for the pecans and the condensed milk mixture acting as a lemon curd. These bars are cold, rich, and creamy without feeling too heavy, which makes them a perfect summer dessert in my book. One word of warning as the 4th of July weekend begins – the recipe states that these bars shouldn’t be kept out of the fridge for more than a few hours, so they may not be the right treat for a beach barbecue. Save them for a time when you are sticking closer to home.
I have fond food memories of arepas, which I grew up eating at festivals and street fairs in South Florida. I realize that some of you weren’t so lucky and may not even know what an arepa is. Typically, it’s a small cornmeal cake, thicker than a tortilla, which is stuffed with fillings. It can be served sandwich-style as a snack or eaten as a meal. My understanding is that arepas are a Venezuelan dish which are also popular in other Latin American countries. The arepas of my childhood were sweet and dense. Sometimes the dough itself was studded with corn kernels, and they were filled with a melted, salty white cheese similar to mozzarella. However, I’ve learned since then that there are many ways to prepare arepas; they are often filled with shredded meat and topped with an avocado sauce called guasacaca, which has a taste profile similar to guacamole. I ate them this way in Puerto Rico 8 years ago and thought I’d found my own foodie heaven.
For many years it never occurred to me to make arepas, though I often dreamed of them – my area of NC has some great Mexican food but it’s not yet a mecca for South American cuisine. However, after seeing recipes for them in food magazines and blogs, I decided to try my hand at making my own arepas. I found them to be much easier than I had imagined. The hardest part is finding the right corn flour for the dough. Locally, I found Harina PAN, which is reputed to be the best brand of arepa flour, at Compare Foods, a traditional grocery store that also stocks a wide range of Latin American foods. The process for the arepa dough itself couldn’t be easier; you stir the flour together with some water or milk and a touch of salt (there’s a recipe on the back of the bag, or use the one below) and let it sit to absorb the liquid. Then you pat the dough into rounds and cook them in a hot skillet until they are crispy on the outside. The arepas can be sliced down the middle to make a pocket and stuffed, or you can make your arepas fairly thin and top them with your fillings.
The first time I cooked these, we had them with ground beef, black beans, tomatoes, queso fresco, avocado, and guasacaca. The second time, I used a chuck roast and the recipe below to make shredded beef, which I think is easier to eat inside these pockets. The guasacaca is totally flexible; throw in more or less garlic if you like, or add more jalapeno for more heat, more vinegar for more tang. I’ve included recipes for arepas, shredded beef barbacoa, and guasacaca below, but if you make these yourself, be sure to experiment a bit with the fillings until you find a combination you like.
I spent most of my life thinking a beef burger was the only kind of burger. And while you can still find me chowing down on a (local, grass-fed) beef burger at BCBB, some of my favorite meals in town are “veggie” burgers. I’m not talking about fake meat, soy-based burgers here; bean burgers are much more my style. My obsession began with the lentil sliders at The Federal. Topped with guacamole and curry mayo, they will rock your world. Then I found the black bean burger, smothered with sauteed onions and mushrooms, at Alivia’s. Up until recently, Jeff has been lukewarm on veggie burgers. But when we were in Salt Lake City this spring, we ate at Sage’s Cafe. We split the “Guac-and-Roll”, a burger made of cashews, almonds, and chickpeas and topped with tahini, pesto, and guacamole. He downed it in minutes and I had to fight for 3 measly bites. After that trip, he agreed that maybe all burgers don’t need to be made of beef.
Of course, I took that comment as an invitation to start creating my own veggie burger. I thought it would take a couple of tries and some experimentation to hit on a combo that worked. Turns out, the first recipe I picked was perfect exactly as written. I will be making this burger again and again this summer; maybe I’ll even convert some more meat lovers along the way. The farro keeps the burger moist and the herbs and crushed red pepper add intense hits of flavor. The recipe suggests serving the burgers with a roasted red pepper spread. I’m sure that would be great, but ours were perfectly delicious with honey mustard, avocado, tomato, and lettuce. Since the burgers themselves are a tad on the time-intensive side (though mostly hands-off time with the cooking of the beans and farro) I’d advise keeping your toppings simple and savoring the burger itself. Happy burger season!
A few weeks ago one of my best girlfriends flew in from California to pay us a visit during her spring break. We cooked together often when we lived together our senior year of college. Since she didn’t eat beef or gluten and I didn’t eat seafood we subsisted on a lot of chicken and pork.. Both of our tastes have changed since then, but we still have fun cooking and eating together. While she was here, I showed her my stack of clipped recipes, which has grown exponentially since college. We weeded through it and picked a pasta dish that incorporated some veggies I knew I’d get in my CSA box that week. I had a blast cooking with her and she got a kick out of seeing what goes on behind the scenes for the blog.
This recipe turned out to be a sleeper hit. At first glance it seemed similar to spring pastas I’d made before. But the vegetables and sauce had so much flavor and the lettuce, strange as it sounds, really worked. In fact, I made another pasta with asparagus the following week and it paled in comparison to this one.
P.S. My friend becomes Dr. Robin this month! So proud of you, roomie!
So I actually made this ugly but delicious dish in January. It was like a breath of fresh air back then, when the weather was cold and dreary but the first root vegetables were returning to the market. But I think it would be just as good, if not better, now that daylight savings time has blessed us with a light-filled supper hour. As brutal as losing an hour of sleep can be, living outside of Florida has taught me to appreciate that March day that announces the arrival of spring. The evening sunlight, along with recent 80 degree days, can sometimes fool my body into craving warm-weather food, like salad and grilled vegetables. Usually though, spring is a transitional eating period for me. I like to have meals that combine the best of warm, comforting winter food with the lighter flavors of spring. Using seasonal produce is a great way to make that transition and this dish does just that.
This recipe starts with spinach, still abundant in my market, which gets wilted and mixed with semolina flour, butter, and eggs to make a dumpling dough. To my tastebuds, semolina flour has a richer, nuttier flavor than all-purpose white flour. It is also quite yellow and imparts its color to whatever it is mixed with. But I’m sure you could substitute AP flour if you don’t want to have to purchase semolina. While the dumplings are steaming, braise a combination of your favorite root vegetables in a shallow saucepan. I used baby turnips, parsnips, carrots, and sunchokes. I bought the sunchokes on a whim and after getting them home I did a little research on preparing them. I discovered that they can cause digestive problems in some people. So while I used them in this braise, I told Jeff to avoid them. Personally, I really enjoyed them. Finally, the braised vegetables are mixed with sauteed mushrooms and a little crème fraiche (you can substitute sour cream) and topped with the dumplings. Don’t skip the crème fraiche here – we started eating without it and the dish was pretty lifeless. I immediately jumped up and scooped some into each of our bowls. It’s really the sauce here and the tang cuts the richness of the dumplings.
The original recipe is no longer online, but it’s from Bon Appetit several years ago. I’ve included my slightly adapted version below.
These yellow ramekins sure have gotten a workout lately. They’re the perfect vessel for all the warm, stew-like dinners we’ve been eating this extra-cold winter. Since I’m sure many of you across the country can relate, I’ve got a really unique comfort-food recipe for you. I’ve written about pot pie here before. But this vegetarian version barely even resembles its chicken-flavored cousin. This pot pie is chunky, chewy, and most definitely savory. It’s full of hearty root vegetables, lentils, and mushrooms and has a deep, earthy flavor.
I made some modifications to the original recipe. I’ve posted my version below, but here’s a link to the original. The major change I made was to swap the dried porcini mushrooms for extra fresh mushrooms. Though I do realize that the soaking liquid from the porcinis was intended to flavor the sauce in the pot pie, I prefer the flavor and texture of fresh mushrooms over dried. Luckily, this substitution worked out in my favor as there was plenty of depth in the filling without the porcinis.
One change I would not advise is omitting the gouda. Per usual, I left the cheese off Jeff’s serving. He went back for seconds from a ramekin that had the cheese and was shocked by how much flavor it added. Even though it seems like a small sprinkle of cheese, you can really taste the gouda in the finished product. It helps add zip to the rich flavor of the filling.
That’s three savory recipes in a row around here. I think we all deserve something sweet next time, don’t you?