A niçois salad can be controversial. Traditionalists swear it must only include raw vegetables. Modernists appreciate changes that were recommended in the late 19th century that added eggs and potatoes (cooked, of course). It is the one salad that nobody can seem to agree on.
This twist certainly is not traditional in some ways. It welcomes the history of the origins of a niçois, however, developed by peasants who could not afford much and focused on fresh regional vegetables available to them and the tuna and anchovies available in the nearby seaports. This takes that same approach.
Moving to Austin and having access to abundant and fresh southwest flavors, we’ve incorporated the regional aspect of the origins of the salad. Here, instead of vinegar and olive oil, we replace it with a salsa verde with tangy tomatillios, spicy jalapenos, and zesty limes.
Ingredients for tomatillo sauce:
1.5 pounds tomatillos, paper and stems removed
1 jalapeno, stem removed
1 red onion, peeled and stems removed, chopped
1 avocado, pit and skins removed
2 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
Zest and juice of two limes
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If you wish for a less spicy salsa verde, seed the jalapeno prior to blending.
Put in a container and put in fridge for at least an hour so flavors meld.
Ingredients for guacamole:
1 avocado, pit and skin removed
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
½ tsp cumin
Juice of one lime
¼ tsp salt
Prior to plating, mash all ingredients using a mortar and pestle or the back of a fork.
1 can of tuna, drained
Zest and juice of one lime
¼ tsp of salt
Mix all ingredients together.
Take one radish and slice thinly. Using a ring mold, first put the guacamole for the first layer in the middle of a plate. Next, pack the tuna mixture tightly. Arrange the radish in a layer. Place in fridge for approximately 5 minutes.
Remove plate from fridge and add a teaspoon on top of the layers, removing the ring mold carefully. Spoon salsa verde in a circle around the plate and serve immediately.
Ajiaco is a traditional Columbian soup (specifically, Bogota) that is hearty and filled with some pretty delicious flavors, from a rich, velvet broth to starchy potatoes, and chicken that has melted away. Making it here in the United States, however, proves difficult due to two ingredients that are pretty difficult to come by: a potato variety specific to Latin America of very think skinned, and very small yellow potatoes, and guascas, or potato weed, an earthy herb.
One of my closest friends is Columbian, and while she traveled there this year pre-pandemic, she sent me photos of this dish, and the mouth-watering sight put it on the list of new things to try. I confess, I forgot about my list until recently while watching a food documentary that happened to talk about it. Being in self-isolation from my move, what better time to reach for new flavors than the present?
This recipe is not ajiaco. Unable to find the necessary potatoes and the guascas, I did my best to replicate the flavors described to me by my friend while she attempts to hunt down those ingredients for me so that I can make a proper ajiaco. However, whatever this dish may or may not be, it is certainly delicious. While the recipe looks long, it is a fairly straight forward dish, but be sure to read the recipe first before planning on making it! Buen provecho!
5 green onion stems (white part with roots only – reserve the remainder for other dishes)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ of an onion, cut in half (reserve the remainder for other dishes)
¼ of a bunch of cilantro
3 chicken quarters
3 cups chili stock (make this ahead of time – soak dried chilis of your choice in a big bowl of water, then blend the next day. You can skip this step if you like by replacing this with more stock).
5 cups good quality chicken stock
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
6 small Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices
3 russet potatoes, divided (peel and grate 1 of the potatoes; peel and slice into ¼ inch rings for the other 2 potatoes)
2 ears of corn on the cob, cleaned and sliced into 6 equal pieces
1 tbsp Mexican oregano
In a cheesecloth (I did not have a cheesecloth, and if you don’t, that’s alright – use coffee filters like I did), place the first three ingredients and enclose, then tie tightly with butcher’s twine so nothing falls out.
In a large pot, add the chicken, the cheesecloth, all 8 cups of the stock, the salt, and the pepper. The stock should submerge the chicken completely – if not, add more stock or water. Bring to boil slowly over medium high heat, then reduce to simmer and cover. Slow cook on low, checking on it frequently, for approximately 3 hours.
Check on the chicken, it should be cooked at this point, and very tender. Using tongues, pull the chicken out and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, pull apart into pieces (tip: save the bones to make some stock later).
Add the potatoes to the pot, including the grated potato. Cook, covered, another 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are extremely soft and starting to fall apart. Using a stick blender, blend the mixture for 30-60 seconds until thickened. In the alternative, if you do not have a stick blender, take half the potato mixture out and put into a blender, then return it to the pan, or add a roux.
Add the corn and the Mexican oregano. Cover and cook another 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
The soup is done. You can return the chicken to the pot or you can serve it in a more traditional style and plate the soup separately, then add the chicken and corn piece to each bowl. Serve immediately or serve later by reheating slowly!
My fiance, Catie, loves scallops. If given the choice between some tender seared scallops and a rib eye, I think she would be hard pressed to choose. As a lawyer, she works pretty long days, and so I surprised her with dinner by combining her favorite flavors: tender, lush scallops with Thai flavors.
We had these as an appetizer with a steak dinner entree (hey, just cause I said she would choose one over the other, doesn’t mean I made her choose!), but the scallops were the real star. A balanced, controlled heat from the peppers, a lushness on the tongue from the butter, and a tangy acidity form the lime juice that brings all the flavors together made every bight scrumptious. So grab some seafood and enjoy this epic journey under the sea!
1 Thai chili, minced (to lower heat, seed the chili; you can also use a jalapeno to drastically drop the heat level without sacrificing flavor).
6 tbsp butter
4 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon cardamom, ground
1 lime, zest and juice
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh mint, chopped
Put 2 tbsp vegetable oil into a large pan (just enough to coat) over medium high heat. While heating, pat the scallops as dry as possible with a paper towel on each side (this will help give a better sear). Cook the scallops approximately 3 minutes per side, making sure to flip only once, until cooked through and opaque. Remove from pan onto a paper towel to dry any excess oil and sprinkle with salt.
To the same pan, add the chili pepper and ginger, stirring frequently until fragrant, approximately 30 seconds.
Add the fish sauce and soy sauce, and, using a wooden spoon, scrap the pan of any browned bits on the pan.
Add the butter, cardamon, lime zest and juice along with a pinch of salt. Whisk and cook for a couple more minutes, making sure not to boil the butter (lower heat if required).
Plate scallops then spoon on some of the sauce on top. Garnish with fresh, chopped mint if desired.
Every Fourth of July, my family traditionally went all out. We would grill out in true Middle Eastern American fashion (think kabobs and chicken in lieu of burgers and brats), enjoy some fireworks, and then, of course, came dessert. As a kid, this was always the same: strawberry shortcake.
Despite its origins in the United Kingdom, America, in time, evolved this dessert into the quintessential American dish with its biscuit-like cake, fruity, jam-like sauce, and, the piece-de-resistance, the whipped cream. Like all traditions, though, mine changed this year. Being diagnosed with diabetes this past October meant re-thinking this classic and pulling the essential components of this dessert and lightening it up significantly.
Enter: the cake-less “shortcake.” Omitting the delicious biscuit reduces the carb and sugar count in this recipe significantly so that even the most health conscious among us can enjoy dessert. The best part? For those not worried about health issues, you can still go ahead and serve this variation on top of biscuits, pound cake, or sponge cakes so that everyone is happy!
Macerated Berries with Vanilla Whipped Cream
2 pints blueberries
2 pints strawberries, stem removed and hulled, sliced
2 tbsp sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lime
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla + 1 teaspoon
1 pint heavy whipping cream
In a large bowl, combine the blueberries, strawberries, sugar, zest and juice of the lime, a pinch of salt, and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Stir gently until everything is coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
Place the whipped cream and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on high until stiff peaks. If desired, add some powdered sugar to make a sweeter whipped cream. We purposely did not do this as we felt the berries were sweet enough!
When ready to assemble, in a bowl, place a generous serving of the fruit mixture with a dollop of the whipped cream. In the alternative, serve on top of a shortcake or biscuit!
My dad’s birthday was a couple of weeks’ ago (Happy Birthday, dad!), and what better way to celebrate a summer birthday by grilling up a storm. We made a number of dishes, but the favorites may surprise you: grilled portabellas and cauliflower, and grilled whole fish.
While a rib eye maintained its well earned love by my mother and me, my father prefers lighter meats, such as fish, and has a passion for vegetables without rival. To be sure, between the tender flesh of the branzini and the smokey, melt-in-your-mouth mushrooms, nobody will miss red meat if you decide to just go with those items for your next cook out and ahead of the Fourth.
Chili Spiced Portabella Caps
4 portabella caps, stems removed (reserve these for another use such as making vegetable stocks, or dicing and sauteing them as a topping for a burger).
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients except the mushrooms together in a bowl to make a thick paste – add more vegetable oil if needed.
Slather the mushrooms evenly with the paste, and place in a plastic bag up to overnight so that they absorb the flavors.
When ready to cook, on a hot, well-oiled grill, over direct heat, cook the mushrooms for approximately 3 minutes per side, trying to flip the mushroom as infrequently as possible as the flames allow.
Serve immediately – if desired, squeeze some lime juice on top before serving.
Grilled Whole Branzini
2 whole branzini – ask your fishmonger to clean and gut these for you.
2 lemons, sliced
1 bunch of cilantro, trimmed and cleaned
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp pepper, divided,
1 tbsp cumin, divided
2 teaspoon chili powder, divided
Several hours before you wish to grill, take the whole branzini and rinse them under cold water, making sure the fishmonger did not leave any remnants of unpleasantness in them and that the fish is entirely de-scaled. If not, de-scale the fish by running the back of a knife against the fish to get any missed scales.
Make sure you have everything prepped ahead of time. Squeeze some vegetable oil throughout the fish (we did this previously out of video).
With your CLEAN hand, sprinkle the seasonings evenly among both fish and the cavities of both fish. Stuff the fish with lemon slices and cilantro sprigs – as many as you can fit without the herbs and fruit spilling out.
Wrap butcher’s twine around the fish to keep everything inside of it. Place covered in fridge until ready to grill and up to overnight.
When grilling, make sure you oil the fish (again) very liberally, that the grill is very well oiled, and that you are working on high, direct heat. This will all prevent the fish from sticking. Grill for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side. The fish should not stick when you flip it over if it is cooked and you’ve done all these steps. If you do not feel like dealing with risk of a sticky fish, use a cedar or other wood plank pursuant to their directions and cook the fish on top of that. This will take longer but will still be delicious.
Remove the fish and serve with a squeeze of lemon. Remember to be wary of bones!
Few things remind me of my childhood more than a Sunday brunch. Growing up, it became a weekly tradition to have a large brunch after mass on Sunday morning. While my brunches all these years later do not always consist of hummus, falafel, and a glorious over abundance of cheeses, meats, and olives, it is a tradition I continue to try to maintain.
Being diabetic certainly led to some of my favorites having to be modified, however. Gone are the days of the buttermilk biscuit (though keep an eye out for a lighter version coming soon!) smothered in sausage gravy, but some things never changed. This hash is one of them. Have some leftover vegetables from the week? They may go well in a hash. We had some leftover sweet potatoes that we did not get around to finishing earlier this week, an onion and some potatoes on the cusp of their final days. Enter: the hash.
This hodgepodge dish delights the senses with its sweetness from the sweet potatoes being balanced with some heat from cayenne and chili powder reminiscent of flavors well known to Southwestern cuisine.
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
1 cup diced bell peppers (feel free to use frozen if that’s what you’ve got!)
1 Sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups baby spinach
3 tbsp cheddar, shredded
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. This recipe works well in a cast-iron pan as well but be prepared for more sticking (though crispier potatoes).
Add the onions and peppers with a pinch of salt. Cook down until the onions are nearly translucent, approximately 4-5 minutes.
Add potatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are crisp tender, approximately 15-20 minutes depending on stove top. Add the chili powder and smoked paprika while the potatoes are cooking.
Once the potatoes are cooked, add the eggs, stirring frequently until the eggs are cooked. Add the cayenne pepper, another pinch of salt, and the black pepper to this step.
Add the spinach, stirring frequently until it cooks down and is wilted. This will not take long. Turn off heat and add the cheddar cheese, mixing it in well so that it melts. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy. Optional: Serve some lime with it to brighten up the dish and have some acidity to play off the heat from the peppers and sweetness of the vegetables.
Sadly, the answer is no. At least, not a healthy salad. But fear not, methods abound to lighten up this Southern classical dessert and spruce it up for summer as well. As strawberry season nears its end here in Virginia, what better way to pair up the classic combination of strawberry and rhubarb than a bread pudding?
While not healthy, this dish makes some critical substitutions from most recipes. First, you’ll notice there’s not as much sugar. We are going to rely on some overripe strawberries rather than sugar to make up the difference. You’ll also note that we don’t use whole milk or heavy cream – both of which would make this dish richer, more decadent, and delicious, but we sacraficed some of this to make the dish lighter.
Also, we didn’t have ice cream, but certainly feel free to make any of these substitutions back (the cook’s note beneath the recipe will list how to make the heavier version substitutes).
So let’s grab some strawberries, and make this (non-)salad!
1 quart strawberries, stemmed and quartered
3 stalks rhubarb (warning: discard any leaves and the ends – the leaves are toxic)
6 cups of day old bread of preference, cubed or torn into thick chunks
1 ½ cups 1% milk
1 ½ cups half and half
6 egg yolks
½ cup sugar plus 2 tablespoons
1 tbsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
Non-stick cooking spray
Slice the rhubarb into small pieces, add to the strawberries, and toss with the two tablespoons of sugar and the vanilla. Set aside in the fridge, covered.
Place the cubed bread in a large bowl and set aside. In a small cooking pot, add the milk and half and half, along with the pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, being careful not to scald the mixture. While waiting for the mixture to heat in another large bowl, add the egg yolks and remaining sugar. Beat together until light and fluffy. Once the mixture is simmering (but not scalded), turn off heat. One ladle at a time, whisk the hot mixture into the eggs while whisking to temper the eggs. Repeat until 1/3 of the mixture has been added to the eggs in this fashion, continuing to whisk the entire time to avoid the eggs scrambling. (Tip: if your eggs do scramble at any point, use a fine mesh sieve to retain as much of the custard mixture as you can). Slowly add the remaining mixture to the egg mixture, continuing to whisk until fully incorporated.
Add the mixture back to the sauce pot and put heat back to medium high. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens and holds on a spoon (approximately 160 degrees Fahrenheit).
Pour the mixture over the bread. Let soak at least 15 minutes up to an hour (if waiting more than 15 minutes, put in the fridge after it cools).
Add the strawberry and rhubarb mixture to the bread mixture and gently toss to incorporate thoroughly. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with non-stick spray and then add the mixture evenly to the dish. Let sit in the fridge at least one hour, covered, up to overnight.
When ready to back, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Put in the oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes – 55 minutes, or until set. Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
If you want to use the more decadent recipe for a special occasion, bump up the sugar in the egg mixture to 1 cup, and replace the milk and half and half with whole milk and heavy cream, respectively. The custard mixture will be thicker at this point because of the increased fat content, just keep stirring so the eggs do not scramble!
Comfort food can encompass all measures of ideas and concepts. Of course, most of us gravitate to the usual stars of the show. Macaroni and cheese. Pot roast dinners. Steak and potatoes. These are, of course, all great items full of memories from childhood of home cooked meals, but not always attainable in our adult lives for various reasons.
I recently got some bad medical news requiring me to change my diet, and while it is certainly disappointing that steak and potato dinners will be greatly reduced in my near future, there are other ways to get those same feelings of nostalgia and comfort. Enter: pan seared cauliflower. With its steak-like shape, beautifully colored florets, and tender texture, one can still be satisfied with a great meal.
First, we trimmed the head to make a steak. One head can usually produce two steaks, but as we were in experiment stage, we only made one steak so as to use the rest of the cauliflower for other dishes.
Next, we seasoned the cauliflower before we pan-seared it.
After we pan seared it on both sides (we used a cast iron to give it more of a grilled feel and because the heat is evenly distributed), we drizzled some vinaigrette on with it. We also served it with some roasted watermelon radishes (coming soon!) and a lemon slice.
This recipe is quick, easy, and great for weeknight cooking. Plus side, it’s extremely healthy so you won’t have to feel guilty for going back for seconds!
Pan Seared Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower (white, purple, or other
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Parsley (for garnish)
Cut the cauliflower to make two “steaks” out of
the head (see picture), and trim off any greens.
Coat each side of the cauliflower using one tbsp
of the olive oil in total, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika (we went heavy
handed on paprika because we love it so much)
Heat a cast iron pan on medium high heat with
the remaining olive oil. Once the pan is hot, sear the steaks on each side for
approximately 4-5 minutes or until a knife pierces through easily with no
resistance. Work in batches if needed.
While the cauliflower rests, make the lemon
Plate the cauliflower, drizzle the vinaigrette
on top and garnish with chopped parsley and a lemon wedge if desired. Serve
Juice of one lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Place the lemon juice in a small bowl with a
pinch of salt and pepper.
While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil
so as to emulsify the mixture.
Once emulsified and incorporated, the dressing
is ready to use. You can add shallots, or lemon zest in the first step to vamp
up some new flavors. If the vinaigrette is too bitter for your liking, try
adding a teaspoon of honey with the lemon juice.