Category Archives: Appetizer

Pasta Salad Redeemed

Growing up, if there was a summer barbeque, it was inevitable that my Mom was going to make pasta salad, it was quick and easy, most people liked it and she had three kids, give the lady a break. As one of said children, it was my duty to whine about it and be ungrateful. Turns out, I wasn’t giving it a fair shake because of my long standing hatred of celery salt…One of the key ingredients in the seasoning packet she used. I feel like it was literally Italian Dressing and a packet or shaker of Ms. Dash…the bile is rising… I LOVE PASTA SALAD though, and it was my duty today to redeem it.

Yeah, they were a little dirty...its good for you.

Yeah, they were a little dirty…its good for you.

So! I started with a boiling pot of salted water. I cut some button mushrooms in half while I got my cast iron skillet roaring hot.

Mise en place for your vinaigrette. Parsley, Basil, Lemon Juice and Zest, Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Salt, Pepper

Mise en place for your vinaigrette. Parsley, Basil, Lemon Juice and Zest, Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Salt, Pepper

When it was smoky hot, I added a bit of olive oil and threw those filthy little things in the pan to sear. While those were browning up nicely, I minced up some parsley  and chiffonaded some basil. I also zested a whole lemon and  squeezed the juice into a large bowl with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms were seared nicely, I tossed them hot into the vinaigrette.

Sear those mushrooms hard and toss them in a vinaigrette of lemon juice, zest, balsamic, olive oil, salt an pepper.

Sear those mushrooms hard and toss them in a vinaigrette of lemon juice, zest, balsamic, olive oil, salt an pepper.

By this time the boiling water was nice and boily, and I tossed my garlic scapes into the pot. Garlic scapes are lovely if you haven’t ever tried them before. They are surprisingly mild on the garlic. They are similar in texture to blanched asparagus, and they can get a bit woody at the ends so, make sure you trim them, and you will eventually be cutting them on a sharp bias.

Blanch a few Garlic Scapes and watch them brighten up.

Blanch a few Garlic Scapes and watch them brighten up.

Once they are nice and bright and a little softer (don’t kill them, they are little guys), pick them out of your water with tongs and run them under cold water until they are cool to the touch. This locks in the color so that they stay bright and pretty!

Then shock them with running cold water or icy water if you are fancy.

Then shock them with running cold water or icy water if you are fancy.

Once they are cool you can cut them on a sharp bias and add them to your growing heap in the bowl.

Scapes are so pretty!

Scapes are so pretty!

Now you can go ahead and use the very same boiling water to throw your rotini in. Look how resourceful I am!  I like rotini the most because it is a throwback to my Mom’s pasta salad. Props, D…

A medley of salty olives and capers.

A medley of salty olives and capers.

While you are waiting for the pasta, you can get out a melange of olives of any variety that you like, but please not canned black olivesblarf. If you have to pit them, chop them up a little and while you are at it, why not some capers or caper berries even???

Little salt bombs.

Little salt bombs.

This is starting to come together folks… Now, here is where I was a little worried, but I figured that my love of cauliflower would not lead me astray. I cut some big hunks of cauliflower up and got my pan nice and hot again.

Cauliflower is highly underutilized.

Cauliflower is highly underutilized.

Once again, I poured in some tasty olive oil and seared them crispy and brown. The squirrel wasn’t so sure about it, but I was like, “Shut up, Squirrel, leave this to the professionals…”

Seared Cauliflower, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Suspicious Squirrel Plate.

Seared Cauliflower, Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper, Suspicious Squirrel Plate.

Ok, so I’ve been hitting the sauce Zissou-style. Only one though, I am a responsible adult here, people.

Mama likes to drink when she is cooking in a hot kitchen.

Mama likes to drink when she is cooking in a hot kitchen.

Now my pasta is ready, so I ran that under water until it was cool and tossed it in the bowl to start to get it’s mingle on.

Rotini time!

Rotini time!

I salted and peppered my seared cauliflower, and ran a knife over it a few times to make it more appropriately bite sized. I also decided at this point that the garlic scapes were really super mild and I am a woman who loves her garlic, so I minced up a fat clove and mixed it in.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Now I halved a bunch of lovely grape tomatoes. and tossed them in. Folks at this point, you have a LOVELY vegan salad that any person could get down with. Season it to your liking…don’t be afraid of a little salt. But, if you are a cheese and anything meaty-umami eater like me, go the extra mile, guys.

Try to make anchovies look good with an iPhone...I dare you. Also, Parmesan.

Try to make anchovies look good with an iPhone…I dare you. Also, Parmesan.

I added, three fillets of anchovies sliced thin, and a good 1/3-1/2ish cup of grated Parmesan Reggiano. I also chiffonaded more basil leaves and threw in a handful of pinenuts because I am fancy like that.

Finished Product! Sucess!

Finished Product! Sucess!

And folks that’s it. I am for once, looking forward to having pasta salad leftovers to eat for the next few days. I am not knocking Dawn. She is a great cook, and she taught me how to cook, but I think that she would agree that this is worlds apart. Now I just have to see what Eric thinks of it when he gets home from work!



Hot and Sour Shortrib Udon Goodness

On this Indian Summer day, there is a beautiful blue sky against leaves clinging to their last bit of green. It is a beautiful way to say goodbye to the last bits of summer. When I think of fall, I think of hearty soups, but since it is such a warm summery day, I decided to lighten it up a bit with a nice broth-based hot and sour. We used to make something reminiscent of this at Green Zebra, but obviously with no meat. I couldn’t resist using my new cast iron to braise a couple short-ribs.

I seared them really well, leaving them to sear for a few minutes in plenty of oil in a HOT  pan. Once all sides were seared, I turned my oven on at 325. I poured out most of the oil.

Then I added some mushroom broth, a good ammount of Mae Ploy (sweet chili sauce), Sambal Olek (chili paste), and some ginger rough chopped. I didn’t fully cover the shortribs, just about half way.

I let it cook in the oven, at first covered until the meat tightened up around the bones, then uncovered until it got soft again and the sauces reduced. Somewhere in the middle, I remembered to put some sliced garlic in there too.

Once they were nice and tender, I pulled the bones out, and cooled them in the refrigerator for later slicing. I kept the bones and the liquid for making the broth.

I strained the chunks out of the broth, and then I sliced an inch long hunk of peeled ginger thinly and added them to a mesh strainer that I left hanging for the duration of the broth making process. To that, I also added one stalk of  thinly sliced lemongrass. I slice this on a bias so that there is maximum surface area to extract the flavor. I also took the stems off of about 15 shiitake mushrooms and saved the caps for finishing the broth. It is a good way to use every part of the buffalo. I also chopped the ends off of a bunch of scallions, and I saved the tops for garnishing the finished product. I also added the bones into the strainer for infusing into the broth.

At this time, I also added mushroom broth about 3/4 of the way up to the top of the pot. I brought it up to a boil, then I let it simmer covered about a half hour. I pulled out the strainer and added my mushroom caps, which I thinly sliced. I also added some pickled baby corn that I cut into one inch pieces.

I also small diced an inch nub of peeled ginger. This time, I took care to brunoise it nicely.

By the time I got all of that done, the short ribs were fully cooled. I took them out and trimmed them up, taking care to trim any weird connective tissue that was too chewy. I very thinly sliced the pieces of meat into bite sized pieces. I set them aside for later addition to the soup.

I added an entire packet of wide soba noodles to the boiling pot, stirring rapidly so they didn’t stick.

Once they were mostly cooked, I added some thinly bias cut carrots and the meat to the broth. Once the carrots were tender, I took everything off the heat and cut my other garnish.

I thinly bias-cut a jalapeño, chiffonaded cilantro, very bias cut scallion tops and a lime.

To finish the broth right before serving, I added soy sauce, rice vinegar and lime juice to taste.

In the end, I think it was the perfect way to say, “So long, Summer…..Hello Fall!” It was spicy, it was a little sweet from the Mae Ploy,  sour from the citrus and vinegar and a little salty from the soy sauce. The mushrooms added the perfect ammout of umami to really kick up the meatyness of the short ribs. The ribs were amazingly tender and had the perfect ammount of fat to have delicious flavor. What a great thing to have waiting for you when you come home  on a warm fall afternoon. 

Tacos! Hooray!

Salty Dog with Silver Tequila (i.e. Perro Salada) with Chorizo and Avocado Tacos on House Made Tortillas and Chile de Arbol Salsa….Amazing!!Sometimes I make tacos, and I drink some…..


Tacos Dorados con Queso y Frijoles

Last night at 2 AM I made tacos dorados for the first time ever, don’t ask why. I never realized how easy they are, until then. I usually am pretty hesitant about deep frying anything….the spent oil….the smell…the clogged arteries….ock. In this case though, I was able to shallow fry them and they worked out really well.

For the beans:

I made some re-fried beans the same night that I made the Salsa Verde, by first rinsing then boiling 3 cups of pinto beans. I added some cumin, chicken stock (or bullion), 1/2 small white onion diced really small, 2 chipotles from a can of chipotles in adobo small diced, a small handful of cilantro and a bottle of Negra Modelo beer. Don’t forget to season them well. When the liquid reduced, I added more hot water as needed. I let this boil away uncovered until the beans were soft and fully cooked. Then I mashed them with my bean masher, but you can use anything with mashing capabilities. I let them cool overnight, but I am sure you could do the tacos with hot beans too.

For the actual tacos, I just steamed a stack of corn tortillas in the microwave wrapped in a dish towel for 3o seconds so they would be pliable enough to fold, then I started to fill them. I put a small dollop of beans onto the tortilla and spread it out. Then I smashed a small ammount of shredded Muenster (I prefer it over Chihuahahua cheese, which I would use if I didn’t have Muenster) in the midddle of the beans. Then I folded the tortilla in half sealing the cheese in the middle of the beans and securing the sides by stabbing them with a toothpick on each side.

Then I fried them in hot oil about 2/3 of an inch deep. I got it pretty hot, but not smoky and left it on medium to high heat. The tacos leaked a little, bit not like crazy. Then, once both sides were golden brown, I blotted them on paper towel and let them cool a little before biting into the little lava filled crunchy amazing treats. The salsa verde was amazing with these. They are often filled with seasoned potatoes or seasoned ground meats too. Both are amazing too. They made for the perfect food at 2 AM, and I am sure that any drunk person would be more than happy with them too. Hahaha.

Best Salsa Verde EVER

Well, maybe not ever, but pretty damn good! This salsa is super easy and super delicious on tacos, with chips, or pretty much anything….maybe not on ice cream….


The best part is the delicious charring you get on the chiles and tomatillos, and you don’t even need a fancy grill!

5 Medium Tomatillos -Peeled but Whole

2 Jalapeños -Whole

3 Cloves Garlic-Peeled

1/2 t Ground Cumin

1 Lime

Salt To Taste

1 Avocado

Start by getting a sauté pan hot (NO OIL) on the stove. Throw the tomatillos and chiles in the pan and let them sear the skin for a good 4 minutes before you flip them on high heat. Give the same ammount of time on the other side. Repeat one more time for each side then add your garlic cloves and cover the pan with a lid to help steam the tomatillos. Once they turn to the dirty brown green, you can take them off the heat and throw all of it into the blender cup.  (Actually I rough chopped the garlic at this point  just to be safe). Everything that went in was cooked and had nice black and brown char over most of the surface.  Then I added some salt and the cumin. BLEND!!! Once it is all delicious and smooth, you could stop there, BUT WAIT….THERE’S MORE!! I cooled it down a little in the freezer (just to make sure I didn’t cook the avocado and lime juice….it sort of tastes gross when you do) then I scooped out a ripe avocado, and dropped it into the blender cup and blended it up! To be safe, I added the juice of 3/4 of a large lime. I also checked for final seasonings. The end result was delicious and creamy, but spicy and bad ass. This stuff lures you in with it’s smooth texture, but it has an awesome kick. I saw someone make it at a barbeque this spring, and I made a mental note to steal it for myself. Finally, I was not dissapointed!

Sidenote: In the background you can see the beginnings of my first craft project that I have deemed fit for my cooking blog. I will justify it when I post. Let’s just say I have found a loophole…

Chorizo Burgers, Guacamole, and Aguachiles, Oh My!

For the 4th of July, I wanted to do a Mexican barbecue, because it is still awesome to me, having grown up eating hot dogs and hamburgers at every barbeque. But our friends wanted American fare, since they were  in the opposite situation. We decided to compromise by making Mexican themed burgers and hotdogs. We also did end up making aguachiles.

Mariya and I demonstrate what our Prom picture would look like.

For the Chorizo burgers, we used a 5:1 ratio of lean ground beef to raw chorizo. We made sure to mix them when both were very cold and we also mixed some minced jalapeños, onions and cilantro into them. Then we pattied them up and cooked them off. We ended up cooking them pretty well done, because some people were a little spooked about the idea of slightly under-cooked pork, but if I had my druthers, I would have eaten them the same as I eat any hamburger (Medium Rare). They still were pretty moist and tasty at Well Done. Then we topped them with Queso Chihuahua slices, but you could use Muenster (they taste pretty similar and are a similar texture).  We also put some delicious Guacamole on them. They were AMAZING!

We also made some guacamole to top the burgers and eat with corn chips. For my guacamole, I seared on the grill 3 Jalapeños (2 red 1 green) then very small diced (brunoise), small diced 2 Serranos, small diced 1 White Onion, small diced Tomato (not Roma), 3 medium Tomatillos seeded and small diced, 1/2 bunch of Cilantro rough chopped, juice of 3 Limes (or to taste), Salt. Then, of course, 7 Avocados. The avocados, you can cut larger and just mash them up when you mix everything together. I make sure to dice everything else really small, so you can get a bit of everything in every bite. This was a pretty huge batch, but you can scale it back, or you can invite friends over.

Emmanuel must be telling a very good story.

We also made aguachiles. Aguachiles is a ceviche made from raw shrimp, cucumber, chiles, onions, lime and salt. You eat it on tostadas, and it is amazing. If you are skeeved out about the raw shrimp, know that you are essentially cooking the shrimp in all of the salt and lime. You are killing almost any bacteria that is present. Not only that, but the shrimp even gets the texture of cooked shrimp. Plus, it is amazing. I started the Aguachiles by peeling 3 lbs. of a raw shrimp, then I cut them into slightly smaller pieces. Next, I peeled, deseeded, and rough chopped 2 Cucumbers, then I deseeded and rough chopped 3 Chile Manzanas (they are usually golfball sized fleshy round yellow chiles with black seeds and a lot of heat, if you can’t find them, use 2 jalapeños and 1 habanero). We  juiced like 10-12 limes that we poured into a blender cup with the cucumbers, the chiles and Some Salt (a good ammount not sure on the quantity, maybe a handful (you can adjust it to taste after)) and puree them. Then you want to peel 3 more Cucumbers, halve them, deseed them, then slice them. Also thinly slice 1 Red Onion into short strips. Next you just need to mix everything together in a non-reactive bowl or pot. Now you just need to let all of that sit in the fridge for an hour or so. I usually stir it pretty regulary to make sure that the shrimp gets good contact with the acidic mixture. Then you just need to enjoy. Once they have sat for a while in the liquid, you can adjust the acid and the salt content, and then just enjoy it on tostadas. It is so nice and refreshing on a hot summer day. Hope everyone had a great Fourth!!

Three Things

Three things….three GLORIOUS things. This is the epitome of summer and delicious. Cut your cucumber, squeeze some lime all over it, and sprinkle some Tajin Seasoning on it. Tajin is just a chile-lime-salt combination that is amazing. As I said before, people are so fond of eating it on stuff that the bottle literally says, “THIS IS NOT A CANDY”. There are several similar brands, but this is one I am fond of on nearly all fruit and vegetables. Amazing on mango and watermelon too!