Spicy Korean Cucumbers

First we did the Jewish-style Dill-icious Cucumber Salad. This is a similar concept with a COMPLETELY different flavor profile + technique.

SHOPPING LIST: 3 English cucumbers, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, honey, chili garlic sauce, gochugaru Korean chili flakes, sesame seeds, chopped scallions, garlic salt, salt

I like to use English cucumbers for this – the long, thin, “seedless” kind. Either way, slice your cumber in half lengthwise, use a spoon to remove the seeds and then sprinkle the inside with salt and allow the cucumber to rest in a strainer (salt side DOWN) for 10 minutes so the salt will draw out the natural water from the cucumber. SKIPPING this step will result in a watery pickle! Don’t do that.

In the meantime you can make your pickling liquid. Combine 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, 2 tB. sesame oil, 1 tsp. honey, 2 tB. chili garlic sauce, 2 tB. gochuchang Korean chili flakes, 2 tB. sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp. garlic salt and 3 tB. chopped scallions.

I love doing a pickled cucumber salad because it honestly gets better the longer it sits in the pickling solution. Sometimes, when the cucumbers start running out, I’ll add a whole new batch to the same liquid for a quick and easy refresher without starting over!

Creamed Corn + Crab Pasta

My husband loves crab pasta. So when I’m feeling like a sport (ha!) I’ll grab a pound of lump crab meat. My typical crab pasta recipe is essentially the same as the Lemon Ravioli (a la Misi) – with a boatload of crab thrown in at the last minute. But you know me – always trying to think outside of the box – and always looking into my pantry for inspo. What else does the prince love? Crab and corn chowder. And because we’ve been loving a good (actually, GREAT!) cornbread around here, I always have canned creamed corn on hand.

SHOPPING LIST: 1 lb. jumbo lump crabmeat, 1 can creamed corn, 3/4 box of pasta, olive oil, butter, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Bring your pasta water to boil and make sure it is HEAVELY salted because you are going to use your pasta water. I added 2 tB. of olive oil to my pasta water as well because I was using angel hair pasta which I find particularly likes to stick together. As always, use whatever pasta you prefer or have on hand. Especially with angel hair, you want to make sure to PAR COOK your pasta so you can finish cooking your pasta in the super easy sauce. When it’s time to strain the pasta, make sure to save 1/2 cup of your pasta water.

In your sauce pan, melt 2 heaping tB. of. butter. When the butter is melted, add 1/2 cup of the creamed corn and 1/3 cup of your pasta water and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes (if you’re like me and want everything to have a kick but also, the red pepper flakes add a little pop of color). As your sauce thickens, add back your pasta and continue cooking over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes until your sauce is thick and creamy (did you know that creamed corn is a NATURAL thickening agent?!?!).

At the last minute, throw in all of your lump crab. Give the pasta a quick toss and serve immediately. You do not want your crab to “cook” – so you could even do this last step in your serving bowl if you are nervous about your beautiful lumps of crab turning into mush – which will happen if you cook them too long. But you’re paying attention to my explicit instructions so that would never happen to you šŸ™‚

Halibut Saganaki

I am SO excited to share this recipe with you guys for so many reasons. Obviously, the first one is because it’s super delicious – otherwise who would even care? Secondly, I love any dish that you can serve directly in your cooking vessel because that’s always such a pleasure. Third – and really the most exciting – is poaching fish in this manner is such an EASY and approachable way for people to enjoy cooking fish at home. Cooking fish can be INTIMIDATING – maybe it smells, maybe the fish falls apart when you try to flip it – this style of cooking your fish eliminates all of these risk factors and above all, creates a complex and robust dish with minimal effort.

SHOPPING LIST: 1 lb. halibut, 1 jar of tomato sauce, 1 can of quartered artichoke hearts, pitted kalamata olives, red wine, chopped garlic, 1 lemon, feta cheese, parsley, grapeseed oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder

Before we begin, let me sing my praises for Mia’s Kitchen Kale Pasta Sauce – I would recommend using a pasta sauce that has “STUFF” in it – the more complex your sauce, the more complex your saganaki is going to turn out. The first thing you want to do is slice your halibut in about 1 inch cubes, thoroughly season your cubes with salt, pepper and garlic powder and set aside.

Strain your quartered artichokes and make sure they are patted very dry. In a sauce pan, add 2 tB. of grapeseed oil and sautƩ 2 tB. of garlic with your quartered artichokes until your artichokes are blistered and crispy. Season with salt and pepper. Next, add 1/4 cup of HALVED kalamata olives and 2 cups of your preferred tomato sauce and bring it a simmer. Once your sauce is simmering, add 1/2 cup of red wine and continue to simmer for 5 minutes or until the alcohol has cooked out of the wine. Finally, add your halibut cubes, shimmying them into the mix of sauce and vegetables, reduce to LOW heat, and COVER for 10 minutes.

While your fish is poaching in the sauce, ROUGH chop 1/4 cup of parsley and ZEST your entire lemon. When you remove the cover from your saucepan, sprinkle your cooked saganaki with your final ingredients – the roughly chopped parsley, the zest of one lemon and then 1/3 cup of feta (or more if you want, this is your dish after all!)

I have to mention that Saganaki is a very traditional Greek dish. What I love about it, other than it being an easy thing to re-create at home, is that it breaks the lame rule that fish and cheese don’t mix. THERE ARE NO RULES WHEN IT COMES TO COOKING! THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT SO FUN! As always, I have to to encourage you to be creative with your protein. ANY thicker white fleshed fish would work well here, and SHRIMP saganaki is a classic combination. Or another alternative, use this tomato-wine base to steam MUSSELS, once your shells have opened, top them with the same trio of the lemon, feta and parsley before serving.

Mexican Street Brussels Sprouts

When Cinco de Mayo came calling, I was trying to figure out fun ways to play with your typical Mexican flavors. We’ve always loved Mexican corn – ya know the grilled corn that’s slathered in spicy mayo and rolled in cotija cheese and served with a wedge of lime – so these Brussels sprouts were given my version of the “elote” treatment.

SHOPPING LIST: 2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, jalapeƱo, lime, cotija cheese, taco seasoning, coconut oil

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Trim the ends off your Brussels sprouts and then slice each Brussels sprout in half and put all of your cleaned Brussels on a large sheet pan. Slice your entire jalapeƱo and throw that on the sheet pan too – the roasted jalapeƱo slices are going to add a subtle, smoky heat!!! Melt 2 tB. of coconut oil and toss your Brussels in the coconut oil and 2 tB. of your taco seasoning – I love the spicy Siete brand buy any taco seasoning will do. Using the taco seasoning INSTANTLY gives your Brussels sprouts those vibrant latin flavors. Roast your Brussels sprouts for 45 minutes or until fork-tender and crispy on the outside.

When your Brussels sprouts are done, remove the zest from your lime. To finish your Brussels sprouts, you are going to garnish them with the juice and zest of the lime and then cover them with 1/2 cup of crumbled cotija cheese. As you can see, I didn’t use a spicy crema here like the traditional corn to keep the dish a bit lighter, but you could TOTALLY toss your Brussels sprouts in a quick, homemade spicy crema (1/2 cup sour cream + 2 tB. of chipotle hot sauce + salt + pepper) and then finish the same way with the lime and cheese.

One key takeaway here that I’d like to emphasize is the use of the taco seasoning here. You could literally do this to ANY vegetable!!! Just using a vibrant spice blend to roast vegetables instead of your usual salt and pepper can be an INSTANT flavor fix. Don’t want to go to the trouble of making this entire dish? Roast vegetables with your taco seasoning and serve the spicy crema as a dipping sauce! As always, we have to balance what’s delicious and what’s EASY!

Honey Butter Creamed Cornbread

This is simply one of the greatest hacks – the easiest way to zhuzh up a class box of Jiffy corn muffin mix into something insanely special and delicious. And if you found this under the “Dessert” category just read until the end. You’ll get it.

SHOPPING LIST: 1 box jiffy mix, 1 can creamed corn, 1 egg, honey, butter, salt

The trick? I guess there are a few.

One, we want to employ the old, HEAT YOUR PAN before your add the batter trick so your cornbread is crunchy on all surfaces. So grease up your skillet or springform pan (I used the latter) and pop it in your pre-heated 400 degree oven while your prep your cornbread.

Two, instead of using the 1/3 cup of milk the recipe on the box of Jiffy calls for, replace that with an ENTIRE can of creamed corn. So your batter is essentiality 1 beaten egg, 1 can of creamed corn and the entire bag of jiffy mix. (IF YOU WANT YOUR CORNBREAD TO BE SPICY – sautĆ© a finely chopped jalapeƱo in oil of your choice and add to the batter as well). Remove your smoking hot skillet from the oven, pour in your batter and bake for 25-30 MINUTES or until the center is firm. (The box says to bake for 15-20 minutes but you will need a little extra time because you basically tripled the liquids).

NOW is the best part. THE THIRD TRICK! After your cornbread has cooled, remove it from the baking dish. Melt 2 tB. of butter and mix with 2 tB. of honey. Use a fork to poke holes in the top of your cornbread. Drizzle the entire cornbread with your honey-butter mixture and finish with a sprinkle of salt. PLACE THE CORNBREAD BACK under the BROILER for 3 minutes so the honey butter gets a little crispy.

I lied. There is a fourth – and MAJOR – secret here. This one is a personal favorite. Last time I made cornbread I served it with St. Louis Ribs. Very traditional pairing. But you know what the BEST use of your cornbread is? ICE. CREAM. SUNDAE. Heat up a slice (or two) of your leftover cornbread. Top with a spoonful (or two) of vanilla ice cream. Finish with a drizzle of honey. THANK ME LATER šŸ™‚

Stuffed Pepper Parm

I wrote all about the origin of the stuffed pepper in my Taco Turkey Stuffed Peppers post. I had never given the stuffed peppers the parmigiana treatment and it just felt. like. time. This is always a go-to recipe for me because A. it’s not particularly expensive B. it feeds a BUNCH of people and C. it is incredibly satisfying.

SHOPPING LIST: 6 cubanelle peppers, 1.5 lbs. spicy Italian sausage (chicken or pork), 14 oz. whipped cream cheese, 1 egg, tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, chopped garlic, dried oregano, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. The first step is trimming the stems off of your peppers, slicing them open (without going all the way through) just enough that you can get your fingers inside to clean out all the seeds. Once your peppers are cleaned, rub them with olive oil and season them thoroughly with garlic salt and pepper.

In a bowl, mix one egg. Add 1 tB. of chopped garlic. Add your spicy Italian sausage – if you purchased sausage IN the casing, make sure to squeeze the sausage OUT of the casing so you basically have ground, seasoned meat. 1.5 lbs. of sausage would be equivalent to about 8 links. I also want to note here that the use of sausage is key here because the addition of fat and seasoning to the ground meat is what naturally gives this dish a crazy amount of flavor with minimal effort. Finally, add the whipped cream cheese and use a wooden spoon to mix well. Stuff each pepper TO THE MAX with your filling. Place all of the stuffed peppers in your baking dish. Top with tomato sauce of your choice – in this particular instance I used a Far Diavolo – and then top with 1 cup of shredded mozzarella and a sprinkle of oregano.

Bake your peppers for 45-50 minutes or until the peppers are fork tender and the filling is solid and cooked through! I have to tell you guys, this dish is EXTREMELY satisfying – probably one of my favorites – and as you can see from the this version VS. the taco variation I first posted, you can really use your imagination with HOW creative you get with your filling. With summer upon us, I am thinking next maybe I’ll try to make “crab cake” stuffed peppers because I’m on a serious shellfish kick over here. Or maybe on second thought I’ll just make crab cakes.

Tortellini en Brodo

Remember that chicken carcass from the Whole Roast Chicken that you didn’t throw away because I told you it makes the BEST chicken soup?! Well, now is your chance! It’s not much different than the Turkey Soup for the Soul preparation but let’s go through it again.

SHOPPING LIST: (reserved chicken carcass), cheese tortellini, 1 onion, carrots, celery, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder

Hopefully, you have onion, carrots and celery leftover from your roast chicken. Now that I know how amazing soup is from a cooked chicken – VS. the starting with a raw chicken like my grandmother taught me – I always double up on the veggies at the market so I have enough for both applications. In this instance you only have to slice your peeled onion in half. Slice up about 6-8 peeled carrots and celery. In your large sauce pot, add 1 tB. of olive oil and sauce your carrots and celery. Season them with salt and pepper to taste. When the veggies begin to get some color, add the entire chicken carcass and cook a few extra minutes. Throw both halves of the onion in your pot and then fill 3/4 of the way with warm water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 4-5 hours.

This stock, as seen above, will be MUCH richer in color and flavor than the aforementioned chicken stock you begin with raw chicken. As for the tortellini – HELLO SUPERMARKET. I used the 5-Cheese Tortellini from Giovanni Rana but any cheese ravioli will do (the first time I used classic Buitoni) – or go crazy and get meat ravioli – it’s your soup!!!!!! I finished it with a little black pepper because that’s how hubby likes it but a little sprinkle of grated parmesan would go a long way!

Grilled Caeser Salad

Hands down the SIMPLEST (um, THERE’S BASICALLY NO CUTTING) and most beautiful way to present a classic Caeser salad. The key here is of course, the homemade dressing, and giving those halved romaine hearts the perfect char.

SHOPPING LIST: romaine hearts (2-3), Caeser dressing, Parm Crisps, olive oil, salt, pepper

The first step is making your homemade Caesar dressing, which is linked HERE and in your shopping list. Obviously skip this step if you have a favorite store-bought Caeser dressing but I promise, it’s super easy to make and you can be creative with how you use your Caeser dressing outside of this simple salad (I used the remainder of this batch as the marinade for a whole roast chicken!!)

Next you want to trim your romaine hearts so they are reading for the grill. Trim the ends of the hearts as little as possible, just to remove the dirty edges but keeping the core in-tact. Then, slice the top inch or so off the leaves end of each heart for a uniform look (and because sometime the edges get wilted and we all know I like pretty food around here). Finally, slice your hearts in half and then drizzle each half with olive oil and season with salt and pepper – trying to get in-between the leaves!!!! I think people often skip this step when trying to do a grilled romaine and SEASONING your greens makes a HUGE difference.

Get your grill super hot and then you are going to grill your halved romaine hearts SLICED SIDE DOWN (that means the flat side goes first) – drizzling the olive oil on the hearts before grilling also keeps the lettuce from sticking to your grill! After 3-4 minutes, use a tong to GENTLY flip your hearts so you can grill the backside as well for another 3-4 minutes or until they are sufficiently charred and wilted. Remove the grilled hearts with tongs and place DIRECTLY onto your serving plate so you don’t have to worry about losing leaves in transit.

To finish, GENEROUSLY drizzle your grilled romaine hearts with your Caesar dressing (and I would also recommend serving extra dressing on the side since once you start slicing the romaine you’ll most likely want more). I like to top mine with broken bits of either Sesame or JalapeƱo ParmCrisps. You could always use traditional croutons or even just shredded parmesan is a nice touch. Make sure when serving this dish that you give each dinner a STEAK knife, so that everyone can easily cut into and enjoy their hearts without trouble.

Caeser Dressing

Why do I love homemade salad dressings? Because you know EXACTLY what is in them. No preservatives. No bullshit. Just whip up you these easy ingredients in your handy dandy food processor and you’re good to go.

SHOPPING LIST: 2 eggs, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, chopped garlic, olive ] oil, salt, pepper

The first thing you are going to add to your food processor is 2 egg yolks. Then add 1 heaping tB. of dijon mustard. Next add the juice of one lemon, 1 tB. of chopped garlic and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. You can totally use vinegar instead of lemon here for your acidic component but I prefer the freshness of lemon juice. Get your food processor going and then slowly add your olive oil (about 1/4- 1/3 cup) until your egg yolks emulsify and thicken into a creamy dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3-Way Tomato Salad

I get it. There is a LOT of cooking going on. So the best thing to do is find ways to elevate simple ingredients so you can easily create a dish that is equally exciting and approachable. This dish started with a couple boxes of these beautiful Heirloom baby tomatoes and I looked around my pantry to find a way to double, and then triple-down, on the tomato flavor. I have mentioned this Trentasette Red Pesto but a little bit of this magic ingredient goes a long way. The little bit of truffle doesn’t hurt either.

SHOPPING LIST: grape tomatoes (Heirloom, if available), sun-dried tomatoes in oil, kalamata olives, gorgonzola cheese, balsamic vinegar, Trentasette Red Pesto, salt, pepper

All you need is a cutting board. First, slice your grape tomatoes in half. You want about 2 cups of grape tomatoes. Next, remove your sun-dried tomatoes from the oil, slice about 15 of them in half and add them to your grape tomatoes. Then, pour about 2 tB. worth of the marinating oil into a separate bowl to reserve for your tomato dressing! Then you’re going to slice 1/2 cup of your kalamata olives in half. Add 1/2 cup of crumbled gorgonzola cheese and then let’s finish that dressing we talked about.

You have 2 tB. of the reserved sun-dried tomato olive oil. Add 1 tB. of balsamic vinegar and then 2 tB. of the aforementioned red pesto (p.s. the “RED” comes from sun-dried tomatoes so there is your THIRD tomato element). Mix well and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the tomatoes, olives and gorgonzola in your tomato vinaigrette. I like to pop this BACK in the fridge for a few minutes before serving so it’s nice and chilled. If you’re an onion fan, some sliced red onion would go a LONG way in this salad (but for the sake of making my husband happy, as usual, I left them out).

I also want to add that for a LONG time I thought I didn’t like sun-dried tomatoes – I thought their flavor lingered and was over-powering. Then my girlfriend introduced me to the tomatoes in oil on the Olive Bar at Whole Foods and I became addicted. In quarantine, I realized that sun-dried tomatoes IN OIL are much much different than the the dry version you get in a plastic container. They might not be as garlicky as the Whole Foods version but they are certainly delicious and as you can see from the recipe above, even the oil they are preserved in has awesome applications in it’s own right!