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"It's so beautifully arranged on the the plate – you know someone's fingers have been all over it." – Julia Child

Posts from the Easy Recipes Category

Get ready for fireworks! This 4th of July we’ll be making hot dogs with a little more than just ketchup and mustard. We can’t decide which is our favorite. Tell us what you settle on!

 

POTATO SALAD WITH HOMEMADE RANCH DRESSING
Serves 10

Fresh, fresh, fresh! We’re getting ready to perk up basic potato salad with a series of recipes, but we couldn’t wait and broke this one out for the weekend festivities. No more powdered spice mixes or bottled dressings! This dressing is all fragrant herbs. Take note of the 2-step dressing process: your potato salad will have more flavor than ever.
4 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 bunch dill, chopped (about 1 cup)
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
½ cup parsley leaves, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
Fresh lemon juice

– Place the potatoes in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the head to medium and simmer the potatoes until fork-tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and spread them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle them with the vinegar and oil and gently stir them with a rubber spatula.

– While the potatoes are cooling, whisk the buttermilk and mayonnaise together in a medium bowl. Whisk in the garlic, dill, cilantro, and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Add Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice to taste.

– Pour about half of the dressing over the potatoes and stir gently to combine — while warm, the potatoes will absorb the dressing.  Reserve the rest. When the potatoes come to room temperature, transfer them to a large bowl and refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, add the reserved dressing to the potatoes and adjust seasoning, as food tends to lose flavor when cold.

 

GRILLED FRANKS’N’BEANS
Makes about 6 cups beans

Sure, you can buy canned baked beans, but these are sparkler-dazzling. Also, you probably have most of the condiments in the recipe lurking in your pantry already. Make them a couple of days in advance and reheat them in a cast iron skillet or a disposable foil pan right on your grill when you’re ready to serve. Add a little water to the beans if you need to loosen the sauce up a bit.
For the Beans
1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
2 slices smoked ham, cut into cubes
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons molasses
1 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons brown mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup water
4 (15.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
– Heat the lard over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or other large pot until shimmering. Add the ham and bacon and cook, stirring, until crisp and brown. Add the onion, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and brown sugar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Whisk in the molasses, then the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and water.

– Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and stir in the beans. Cook until the sauce is thickened and the beans are warmed through, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust with vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, if desired.

For the Franks
Franks, of your choice
Hot dog buns
Brown mustard

– Grill the franks outdoors or cook them on a grill pan, or even a standard skillet with a pat of butter, until they’re nicely browned.  Place them in the buns and top them with baked beans and mustard.

L.A.-STYLE BACON-WRAPPED HOT DOGS
Serves 6

I can’t get enough of this recipe. My soon-to-be sister Whitney took me to downtown L.A. years ago and introduced me to these hot dogs. They were cooked on a bunsen burner on a sheet tray, right there in the middle of a busy street. There was a huge bowl of fresh guacamole on a cooler in the front, surrounded by bottled Jarritos sodas. Bacon-wrapped, grilled, topped with charred onions and jalapeños, and topped with creamy guacamole, you’ll have a line of customers at your own grill. Oh, and, yeah, there are chicharrones in the guacamole.

For the Hot Dogs and Jalapeño-Onion Topping
6 jalapeño peppers
Vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 hot dog sausages
¼ cup cornstarch
6 slices bacon
6 hot dog buns
Mayonnaise, for serving

– Set a grill or grill pan to high. If using a grill, set a large cast iron skillet on the grill to preheat. You can also use a grilling basket. Drizzle the jalapeños with oil and set them directly on the grill, if using. Season the onions with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Cook them in the preheated cast iron or on the grill pan, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Transfer to a serving platter.

– Roll the sausages in cornstarch. Wrap 1 bacon slice around each sausage: the cornstarch will glue them together. Cook the hot dogs in the skillet until the bacon is crisped and browned.  Tuck the sausages into buns spread with mayo, and top with the onions and jalapeños. Serve with guacamole.

For the Guacamole
Makes about 3 cups

4 ripe avocados, pitted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 2 to 3 limes
Worcestershire sauce
Pork cracklings, crushed

– Scoop the avocado flesh into a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher or a large fork to desired consistency. With a rubber spatula, fold in the onion, jalapeño, garlic, and cilantro. Stir in the lime juice and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Adjust seasonings, top with the cracklings, and serve.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS
Serves 4

4 bell peppers in assorted colors, seeded and sliced
1 large onion, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
4 fresh Italian sausages
4 sturdy rolls, split in half

– Set a grill or grill pan to high. If using a grill, set a large cast iron skillet on the grill to preheat. You can also use a grilling basket. Toss the peppers and onions together in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.  Cook them in the preheated cast iron or on the grill pan, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. Transfer to a serving platter.

– Poke the sausages a few times with a fork and lightly coat with oil. Grill until lightly charred and cooked through. Transfer them to a cutting board and cut the sausages into thick slices.

– Brush the insides of the rolls with oil and grill them just long enough to toast.  Stuff the rolls with the peppers and onions and sausage. Serve with banana peppers and pickled vegetables if desired.

This was our tiny guest at the shoot: Paloma. Little but with a dinosaur appetite! Yes, this is a very kid-friendly post.

 

 

Father's DayFather's DayThis Father’s Day focus on spending time with your dad rather than slaving away in the kitchen.  It’s summer — time to get the grill out.  These beef skewers are easy to make, casual to serve, and completely satisfying, especially when paired with our chimichurri and homemade mayo.

It’s really a nonrecipe: start with good steak, like NY strip or ribeye. Upgrade with dry-aged steaks— a bit more expensive but extra-flavorful, just like a steakhouse. Cut the steak into 1 1/2-inch cubes and skewer them (if you’re using wooden skewers, remember to soak them for at least 15 minutes prior to using so they don’t burn on the grill), alternating with assorted mini-peppers and cipollini or pearl onions still in their skins. Season the skewers on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper and brush them with vegetable oil. Grill until nicely charred.

Serve them with grilled crusty rolls and a generous dose of chimichurri.

To make Homemade Mayo (it’s super-duper easy!) all you need do is whisk together 1 large egg yolk, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Very slowly, start whisking in 1 cup vegetable oil. Whisk, whisk, whisk, and voilá! MAYONNAISE! It really is superb, but, of course, we are very partial to Hellman’s :)

 

I always feel like I need to bring something to a party, aside from my sparkling personality. I’m a cook and a stylist, and it just wouldn’t do for me to show up empty-handed, or worse yet, with a store-bought dessert. Sometimes, I bring booze. When I do, I start stuttering through a series of excuses, “Oh! It’s been madness! All of this travel! I’m never home anymore! I…etc.etc.etc.” Ultimately, I’m sure no one cares, but I feel dreadful.

Enter this dessert. It’s one of those Key lime pie recipes that you can find in the Wild West that is the Internet, or even on the side panel of a box of Grahams or a tin of sweetened condensed milk. You can make this thing blindfolded, even those of you who proclaim themselves non-bakers. AND! While there is a crust recipe here, go ahead, get one of those ready-made things if you want.

Top this tart with the most seasonal fruits you can find, like raspberries and plums, and not only will this be a refreshing and delicious dessert, it’ll look very “wow!”

KEY LIME FRUIT TART

Makes 1 (9-inch) tart, serving 8

IF YOU’RE MAKING YOUR OWN CRUST:
1 ¾ cups Graham cracker crumbs
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

– Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula, then scrape into a 9-inch round pie plate. Press crumbs into bottom and up sides of plate.

– Bake until golden, 7 to 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and reserve.

WHILE THE CRUST IS COOLING, MAKE THE FILLING and TOPPING
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened*
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
Pinch salt
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice, from about 12 limes
3 cups assorted fruits, such as berries and sliced peaches, plums, and nectarines

– With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese in a large bowl until light and fluffy. With machine running, gradually beat in condensed milk, lime zest, and salt. Slowly add the lime juice and beat just until mixture is combined.

– With a rubber spatula, scrape mixture into prepared pie shell. Top with fruits and refrigerate until chilled and set, about 2 hours. Serve.

*SOFT AND SUPPLE: Don’t try to beat this cream cheese when it’s cold: you’ll wind up with a filling that’s lumpy, like cottage cheese. If you’re in a rush and don’t want to wait for the cheese to come to room temperature, buy cream cheese in the carton with the foil wrapper on the cheese. Massage the cheese while still wrapped.

Skillet PizzaSkillet PizzaSkillet Pizza

 

This is one of our easiest recipes to date (just like those cheater doughnuts). It’s a non-recipe of sorts, casual and simple. Store-bought pizza dough, a raging hot skillet, and your choice of cheese and toppings — done.

SKILLET PIZZA
Makes 3 personal pizzas

We prefer to use fresh mozzarella or burrata (similar to mozzarella, but with a creamy center) and picholine olives, but feel free to substitute the olives with your favorite variety; hit up the olive bar at your grocer and skip the canned, water-logged variety.  Look for good quality anchovies – boquerones are sweet and plump, not the bristly, über-salty cadavers you tend to see distressing pizza-eaters.

1 (1-pound) fresh pizza dough, sitting at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes
All-purpose flour for work surface
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella or burrata, torn into pieces
4 ounces full-fat ricotta
4 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup picholine olives, pitted and lightly crushed with the back of a knife
½ cup boquerones  (marinated anchovies) or pickled anchovies

– Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 475°F. Place a large (10- to 12-inch) cast-iron skillet or large heavy-bottomed, oven-safe skillet on the rack.

– Cut the dough into three pieces.  Lightly dust a clean, dry, work surface with flour. Using a flour-coated rolling pin or empty wine bottle to roll out each piece of dough into an circle about 10-inches in diameter. The circle doesn’t have to be perfect.

– Place the hot skillet (keep a kitchen rack or oven mitt on the handle so you never forget it’s hot!) on the stovetop and turn the flame to medium.  Place one pizza round on the skillet and drizzle generously with oil. Top with some of the mozzarella, ricotta, and ricotta salata. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and return the skillet to the oven.

– Bake until the cheese is melted and the dough is puffed and golden, 12 to 15 minutes.  Repeat with remaining dough and cheese.

– Once the last pizza is finished, heat a small amount of oil in the skillet, add the olives and cook them over high heat until blistered and browned. Sprinkle the olives on the pizzas and top them with the boquerones.

– Serve with a chilled white wine or rosé.

I have been remiss… It always happens that I get bulldozed with work and other distractions and I allow the blog to gather dust, much to the more diligent Tara’s annoyance. This post, along with a surprise guest-starring one coming up soon, begs to be paid attention to as the summer goes bipolar between summery hot flashes and incoming fall’s feverish chills.

This salad is actually something I hope to drag into the cold with certain variations in ingredients – it’s a salad that leaves those plastic bowl, carry-out, romaine chopped things in the dust with a robust smoky backbone of flavor. Oh, and, granita! I make a lot of granitas, for desserts and cocktails mostly, but a few months ago at one of my favorite restaurants (Blood & Sand in St. Louis) I had a lovely English pea and pea shoot tangle topped with a buttermilk frost that was divine in a very delicate sort of way.

This granita is salty lime and mint, and melts into the salad and its drizzle of olive oil for a refreshing and surprising twist on vinaigrette. Look out for some MacGyver action in this recipe, too: grilling, indoors!

CHAYOTE AND ROASTED POBLANO SALAD
Serves 4

For the Lime Granita
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup fresh lime juice (from about 6 limes)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ cup packed mint leaves
Salt

– Stir 1 cup water and lime juice together in an 8- by 8-inch metal baking dish or other similar-sized vessel.

– Bring the remaining ½ cup water, sugar, mint, and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Stir mixture into the lime mixture and adjust seasoning to taste.

Place dish in the freezer and scrape with a fork once every 45 to 60 minutes, until mixture is completely frozen and has the consistency of a slushy. Reserve in freezer until needed.

For the Salad
5 chayotes
Salt
4 poblano peppers, scrubbed
10 scallions
Olive oil oil
6 radishes, scrubbed, tops and bootoms trimmed, thinly sliced
½ cup (about 2 ounces) queso fresco or other Latin American hard cheese, crumbled
½ cup packed cilantro leaves

– Peel the chayotes, cut them in half, scoop the seed out with a metal 1-teaspoon measure or melon baller, and cut into thin matchsticks. Prepare an ice bath by combining 3 cups of ice and 3 cups of cold water in a large bowl. Set up a strainer in the sink. Bring a large bot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the chayotes and cook for 2 minutes. Drain them and immediately plunge them in the ice bath. Once cool, drain them again. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and spread chayotes out in an even layer to dry.

– If you have a gas stove, char the poblanos over an open flame, turning with tongs occasionally, until their skins are black and blistered. Wrap them in foil and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Remove the stems and tear out and discard the ribs and seeds, then slice the poblanos thinly (lengthwise), and place them in a large bowl.
If you don’t have a gas stove,  heat a large dry skillet or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the poblanos until black and blistered and follow steps above.

– Again, if you have a gas stove, toss the scallions with olive oil, then lay them on a metal gridded cooling rack over an open flame and cook them until charred. Otherwise, cook them in the same skillet as the poblanos. Transfer them to a cutting board, trim off and discard the root end, then coarsely chop and transfer to bowl with poblanos.

– Add the radishes, cheese, and cilantro and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and drizzle with olive oil.  Plate the salads and top with granita. Enjoy immediately.

Tostones

Tostones

Tostones

Tostones

 
I will never turn town a potato chip or a French fry, the starch, the grease-slicked fingers, the lips split by the salt as if they had enjoyed a long night of kissing…but a fried plantain can be a scene-stealer. Fried until crisp in long, thin strips until the color of marigolds, they look like sleek surfboards. Cut into chips, they become edible coins from a slot machine, completely addicting. And of course, the double-dip method in which the plantain is fried twice is a favorite preparation.

Tostones begin by being cut into thick pieces, fried in vegetable oil, then flattened with a tostonera (see image) or the back of a small skillet, and returned to the frying pan. When finished, tostones resemble an exploding gold bloom. Seasoned with salt and served as an accompaniment to many meals, tostones can also be served as a “boca” or “botana” (appetizer) with crumbly or creamy Latin American cheeses like cotija and quesillo, refried beans, and vinegary cabbage slaws.

This is a basic method for making tostones. On average, each plantain will yield about 10 tostones; make as many or as few as you’d like. I’d recommend making more because the crunchy exterior and starchy, satisfying bite of the interior of the tostón calls for gluttony.

TOSTONES

Fun fact: plantains in Mexico are called “plátanos machos”!

Green plantains
Vegetable oil
Salt

– Cut off and discard the ends of each plantain. Cut the plantain crosswise into 4 pieces. With a paring knife, score the skin, cutting just enough to reach the flesh of the plantain. Use the knife to pry off the skin. Cut each plantain quarter crosswise into 1- to 1 ½-inch pieces.

– Line a baking sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and reaches 350°F. The oil should be about ½-inch deep in the skillet.

– Fry a batch of the plantain pieces (don’t overcrowd the skillet) until golden, turning once halfway through frying, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer pieces to prepared baking sheet and repeat procedure with remaining plantain pieces.

– Using a tostonera or a small skillet, press down on the plantain pieces until they are flat. Fry the tostones once more, until crisp and golden, turning once halfway through frying, about 3 minutes per side.

– Transfer tostones to prepared baking sheet and immediately season with salt. Serve immediately.

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Sandia

 

Sandia Drinks

 

It’s begun to sizzle and we’re starting to feel a trickle of salty sweat pooling in the nest of our lower backs. It sounds risqué, but it’s just plain hot and sticky, and all we can think of is: Cabana boy!!! Where’s my cocktail?

During the summer, watermelon and cucumbers are some of the coolest and most quenching of snacks. I usually keep big bowl chilling in the fridge, eating them plain, or adding salt, lime juice, and dried chile powder to the cucumbers. The combination is a great salad base, too – try them with a light lemon-lime-cilantro vinaigrette and cubes of seared haloumi.

And, naturally, the temptation to turn the duo into a cocktail proved irresistible. This refresher starts with muddled cilantro, mint, jalapeño, and sugar for a vibrant, herbal base with a sharp prick of heat. Watermelon and cucumber are pureed with ice into a slushy-like juice, and finally, fiery, floral pisco is stirred in. One sip and you’ll beat the heat.

WATERMELON-CUCUMBER REFRESHER
Serves 2

Note: If you prefer a cocktail with less heat, scrape out and discard the seeds and ribs from the pepper.

I always like a hit of salt to balance out sweetness; if using cucumber spears as garnish, lightly season them prior to serving.

Pisco is a potent grape brandy popular in Perú and Chile. I love it for its fiery burn and floral notes, but, this cocktail can also be made with your choice of spirit. I recommend tequila blanco, light rum, Hendrick’s gin, or vodka. Or, leave the booze out altogether and enjoy this as a summery smoothie.

¼ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
¼ cup packed fresh mint leaves, plus leaves for garnish
½ jalapeño pepper, chopped, plus rings for garnish
3 tablespoons granulated or raw cane sugar
Salt
2 cups (½-inch) dice watermelon (about 12 ounces)
¼ English cucumber, cut into ½-inch dice, remainder cut into spears for garnish
3 to 4 ounces pisco
Crushed ice, to taste

– Chill 2 (12-ounce) glasses by filling them with ice water and swirling them around for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and discard the ice water and dry the glasses.

– Muddle the cilantro, mint, jalapeño, sugar, and pinch of salt in a shaker (use either a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon). The leaves should only be bruised, not completely smashed.  Divide the mixture between the two glasses.

– In a blender, pulse the watermelon, cucumber, and pisco until completely puréed. Add crushed ice and pulse once again to combine. Divide mixture between glasses and stir to gently combine. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, mint leaves, cucumber spears, and/or jalapeño rings. Serve immediately.

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