Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sanborn, North Dakota











Monday, April 21, 2014

Citrus Marinated Chicken Fajitas

Citrus Marinated Chicken Fajitas


We now find ourselves in that time of year when there is still halfway decent citrus to be had and there are evenings when it is not completely unreasonable to fire up the grill. We broke out our trusty Weber kettle last week for the Professor's annual ceramic's barbecue. 40° was probably a little too chilly but that first braut off the grill was mighty tasty.

Citrus Marinated Chicken Fajitas

These fajitas do a nice job of bridging that seasonal gap. They are marinated in all the bright, cheery flavors of winter's last citrus and then cooked on the grill (preferably outdoors) for a smoky finish. If you can give the chicken and vegetables at least a few good hours of marinating time, it will really make all the difference. The orange, lemon, and lime juice flavors will increase exponentially as it sits, leaving the meat tender, juicy, and incredibly flavorful. I used chicken breasts because they are healthy and quick to cook, but this marinade would be delicious on thick, meaty fish fillets, pork tenderloin, or even shrimp.

Citrus Marinated Chicken Fajitas

As for what to put on top, the sky's the limit. Avocado slices? Sure. Guacamole? Even better. Sour cream, salsa, sliced jalapeños, and radishes? If you want. I liked my fajitas light and fresh with just a sprig or two of cilantro and a dousing of fresh lime juice but you can top away to your heart's content.

Citrus Marinated Chicken Fajitas
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Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons chile powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 bell peppers (any color, but a variety of colors works best), cored, seeded, and quartered
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into rings

To serve:
Warm corn tortillas
lime wedges
cilantro sprigs

Method

1. Combine oil, juices, chile powder, salt, zests, and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk until smooth.

2. Pour half the marinade into a separate medium bowl. Add the chicken to one bowl and the peppers and onions to the other.

3. Toss both to coat then cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

4.  Heat a ridged grill pan, cast iron skillet, or outdoor grill to medium heat. When hot place the vegetables in a single layer (you may need to do this in batches) and cook until starting to soften and char, about 4-5 minutes per side. Remove them to a plate, cover and keep warm. Repeat with remaining vegetables.

5. Cook the chicken in a single layer until cooked all the way through, about 8-10 minutes per side.

6. Slice the vegetables and meat in strips and serve with the tortillas, lime wedges, and cilantro.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Cocktail

Easter Cocktail

This week we saw 70°F temperatures and big flakes of snow. My Dad told me it was 89°F in Des Moines on Saturday and on Sunday they woke up to 6-inches of snow. You know what all this means, don't you? That it is spring, of course! And also that it is Easter.

Easter Cocktail

In a few short days friends and families will be gathering around in the middle of the day to eat ham, deviled eggs, and lots and lots of jelly beans and I think a nice morning cocktail is in order. A mimosa is the socially acceptable brunch drink for most and makes the perfect vehicle for other hard liquor that a lot of us need to deal with dried out ham and sugar-crazed children.

Easter Cocktail

This mimosa however has a pretty peachy-pastel hue from a splash of Campari whose bitterness balances out the sweet, freshly-squeezed orange juice and the floral St. Germaine elderflower liqueur. It is a fizzy, dry, and utterly sophisticated way to start your Easter brunch.

Easter Cocktail

Easter Cocktail
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Adapted from Cuffs and Buttons

Makes 1 drink

Ingredients
1 ounce freshly-squeezed orange juice
1/2 ounce St. Germaine
splash Campari
cold, brute champagne
orange twist, for garnish

Method
1. Combine orange juice, St. Germaine, and Campari in a shaker filled with ice.

2. Shake vigorously to combine and chill the ingredients. Strain into a chilled champagne flute or martini glass.

3. Top with champagne, garnish with a orange twist and serve.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Mexican Relish Tray

Mexican Relish Tray


My grandmother bestowed many gifts on me—heirloom jewelry, precious old photographs, I'd like to think a smidgeon of her wit. But some of my most prized hand-me-downs are the boxes and boxes of china, glass, and silver I inherited first when she moved to the retirement home ('where people go to die', she would say) and then when she did eventually pass away (I guess she was right).

Mexican Relish Tray

When we were going through her things I found the most beautiful relish tray that I had never seen before. It is stunning cut glass with etched images of fish, olives, vegetables, and pickles in each compartment, making clear for any nervous entertainer what exactly goes where. I've been trying to come up with something worthy of this tray for a long time and now with Easter around the corner I thought I'd share with you some of my fanciest nibbles to fill the slots.

Pickled Cocktail Onions

There are several recipes here and all of them are fabulous on their own. The pickled onions are a vinegar-packed cocktail onion either for adding to a dry martini or munching on while sipping something sweet. They can be made a month in advance and benefit from at least a day or two in the fridge so I'd suggest making a batch just to keep on hand for any impromptu guests.

Requesón


The requesón is my newest obsession I first read about on The Mija Chronicles. It is a fresh cheese made in Mexico that is very similar to Italian ricotta but made with bitter Seville orange juice instead of vinegar or lemon juice. I couldn't find Seville oranges so I used half lemon and half orange juice with delicious results. When drained for a short period of time (30 minutes or so) it is creamy and tinged with flecks of orange zest and oregano. I've been spreading it on toast and topping it with avocado slices, olive oil, and salt. You can also drain it for longer (an hour or more) and it becomes crumbly and perfect for sprinkling over enchiladas, tostadas, or tacos.

Shrimp Cóctel

The shrimp cóctel is Mexico's version of (you guessed it) shrimp cocktail but instead of just using the sauce as a dip the shrimp gets marinated in the spicy tomato sauce and soaks up all the flavors of lime, chipotle, and Mezcal. You can serve it in the sauce along with some chunks of avocado, a good sprinkling of chopped cilantro, and a hefty squeeze of lime or as I did here, on its own.

Mexican Relish Tray

I'd like to think this Easter Gram will be looking down on me with pride and feel like I did good by her relish tray. I won't kid myself into thinking she would mow down some spicy shrimp cocktail—ABC dip was more her thing—but I hope she will be happy I put the platter to good use—breaking out the good china was her thing.

Mexican Relish Tray
Print It!

Pickled Onions and Shrimp Cóctel adapted from Saveur
Requesón adapted from The Wednesday Chef

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

For the Pickled Onions
1 (10-ounce) bag pearl onions
1 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

For the Requesón
8 cups whole milk
1 cup Seville orange juice or 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano

For the Shrimp Cóctel
1 cup Clamato juice
1/4 cup lime juice
2 chipotles en adobo, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon Mezcal or tequila
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp

Peeled, sliced avocado and quartered radishes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt

Fresh or brined Mexican olives

Method

For the onions
1. Bring a small saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil. Add onions and let boil for 4 minutes.

2. Drain and submerge in ice water. When cool enough to handle, remove ends and peel skins. Place onions in a heatproof container.

3.  Combine vinegar, garlic, salt, peppercorns, oregano, and cumin in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt then pour mixture over the onions and let cool.

4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days, or up to a month.

For the Requesón
1. Pour milk into a large saucepan and heat over medium heat to 190°F or until almost boiling, about 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and slowly add citrus juices, salt, orange zest, and oregano. Let sit 5 minutes.

3. Place a double thick layer of cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer and set that over a heat proof container. Strain the milk mixture through the cheesecloth and let drain at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

4. The liquid that is leftover is the whey. You can either throw it away or save for making smoothies or oatmeal or rice or any other number of grains. The requesón will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

For the Shrimp Cóctel

1. Combine all the ingredients, except the shrimp, in a blender. Purée until smooth.

2. Pour over the shrimp and let marinate at least a hour before serving or up to overnight.



Friday, April 11, 2014

Kale, Cara Cara Orange, and Smoked Almond Salad

Kale, Cara Cara Orange, and Smoked Almond Salad


I'm leaving you this weekend with a salad I made one midday when I had nothing but a boatload of vegetables in the refrigerator. I ended up loving the combination so much I now intentionally buy these ingredients so I can eat this salad at least once a week.

Cara cara oranges are becoming hard to come by, but if you can still find them I urge you to make this salad before you have to wait another year for them to return. This salad is sweet, smoky, chewy and incredibly satisfying.

And because I know with Passover and Easter coming up some major menu planning is going down this weekend and I wanted all of you to make this salad for your holiday meals. It is a solid main course salad but also would make a kick-ass side for ham, brisket, or whatever else you've got going on. Not to mention if you've been tasked to bring a salad to the meal, you won't find one that is easier to transport. Just bring the dressing (can you call two ingredients mixed together a dressing? I say, Yes!) in a separate container and drizzle it over the salad right before you eat.

Kale, Cara Cara Orange, and Smoked Almond Salad

If you don't have all these ingredients on hand you can leave some of them out or substitute what you do have. Although I haven't tried it, I'm pretty sure thinly sliced fennel, shaved asparagus, or some thinly sliced red onion would be good here too. The smoked almonds really add something special to this combination. I picked up a bag the last time I was at Trader Joe's, but you can also find the Blue Diamond brand at most grocery stores.

Hope you all have excellent weekends. Happy Planning! xo

Kale, Cara Cara Orange, and Smoked Almond Salad
Print It!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
3 cups torn kale
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 radishes, ends removed and thinly sliced
1 cup mixed greens
1 cara cara orange, segmented and segments cut in half horizontally
1 carrot, peeled into thin strips
1/4 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped smoked almonds
1/4 cup canned garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Method

1. Combine kale, scallions, radishes, mixed greens, oranges, carrots, and bell pepper strips in a large salad bowl.

2. Sprinkle almonds and garbanzo beans over the top.

3. Mix balsamic and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad and serve.




Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Dressing and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

I escaped my house, my family, and North Dakota a couple weeks ago and went to Chicago. If you follow me on the Instagram you can see all my obnoxious food pictures from my trip.

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

Out in the world all alone is not a state I find myself in too often so I had to take full advantage. I ate out a lot......like a lot. And there were many memorable bites; Skinny Geisha cocktails at Union Sushi (which by the end of the night my friend Tess was calling Sad Geishas but let's clarify—we were not sad). Every. Single. Vegetable. at Publican (why were those fries so good?) And I'm embarrassed to say I ate at almost every restaurant outpost at Eataly including La Pizza E La Pasta (twice), Il Pesce, and of course The Nutella Bar (Whaaaat? Why are there not Nutella bars in every mall across the country?!)

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

But one of the best things I ate, strangely enough, was broccoli tossed with garlicky breadcrumbs and obviously lots of butter at The Purple Pig. I've been fantasizing about this broccoli and not in a healthy way. I wanted to make something similar at home so I've been messing around with the ingredients ever since I got back.

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

The only problem was that we don't eat a lot of butter around here (with the hubby being all lacto-intolerante) so I had to come up with something else. The result? Nothing like what I ate that windy, freezing day in Chicago.....but still really good.

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette and Garlicky Breadcrumbs

I decided to go with asparagus because I'm over winter and want to pretend that it is spring (despite the 2 feet of snow that fell last week). Instead of the ton of butter I decided to make a sweet and spicy dressing to drizzle over it, something similar to that addictive chile sauce they serve at Thai restaurants but, you know, more Mexican. The only element of the original dish that stayed the same was the breadcrumbs, (they were the best part) and give such a delicious, undeniable crunch that is so good on any vegetable. I'm not above having a canister of these crispy crumbs sitting on the counter on a regular basis....just 'cause.

Sweet Jalapeño Vinaigrette

Roasted Asparagus with Sweet Jalapeño Dressing and Garlicky Breadcrumbs
Print It!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

For the dressing
1 jalapeño, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup fresh bread (like Levain or some other Artisan loaf), torn into small pieces
1 clove garlic, minced

For the asparagus
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 teaspoon olive oil


Method

1. Heat oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the top third.

2. To make the dressing, combine jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, agave syrup, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Whisk in the olive oil in a slow stream until completely incorporated. Taste and add more salt if needed.

3. To make the breadcrumbs, heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and toss in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Fry the breadcrumbs until crisp and toasted, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir to combine and remove from heat.

5. Wash and dry the asparagus thoroughly and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer.

6. Roast in the oven until just tender, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle with the dressing. Serve immediately.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}

In my fairy-tale, fantasy world I'd like you to believe that I lay out an amazing spread every night. Maybe a slowly simmered mole or a gigantic dish of saucy enchiladas, complete with rice, beans, handmade tortillas and possibly a salsa or two. I'd love to have you convinced that even in North Dakota where, God help us, it is still snowing (!) I provide my family with the notion that we aren't that far away from home, where all it would take is a trip to the burrito truck to get our carne asada fix. But in all honesty most nights it's pasta with tomato sauce or {gasp!} pancakes and bacon if the Professor is working late and won't be home for dinner, neither of which I really want to eat, but I'm too tired by 5:30pm to be creative. I do however, remember, on occasion, that life doesn't have to be all pasta and pancakes. That I can make real-deal Mexican food that is fast and one-pot easy.

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}

What is this easy Mexican milagro, you ask?  Picadillo, of course. Picadillo is one of those universal Latin dishes that has as many versions as there are cooks. You can add a can of chopped tomatoes, fresh corn kernels, fresh chopped cilantro or go Cuban and add sliced green olives and black beans. This particular version I learned to make from my Mother-in-law and is essentially seasoned ground beef mixed with cubed carrots and potatoes that you spoon into warm corn tortillas. It requires one large frying pan and about 30 minutes of your time. Really, truly, very easy.

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}

I like to make it with homemade taco seasoning that I keep handy for just such an occasion, Nana uses the tried and true Sazón flavoring packets which have achiote and dried cilantro and add that special Mexican je ne sais quoi.  Either way you've got yourself a delicious, protein-packed dinner in under an hour that your ravenous family will happily gobble down offering you a solid 10 minutes of peace and the feeling that, yes, even on a weeknight—you nailed it.

One more thing.....if you like what you read and don't want to miss a post, follow me on Bloglovin'! XO

Picadillo {Seasoned Beef with Carrots and Potatoes}
Print It!
Taco seasoning adapted from Mommy I'm Hungry the rest adapted from Nana

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon homemade taco seasoning (see below)
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup beef broth or water
warm tortillas, sliced jalapeños, sliced scallions, and lime wedges for serving

Taco Seasoning
1 tablespoon chipotle chile powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Method
1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and carrot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute more.

2. Add beef and taco seasoning and stir into onion mixture, breaking up the beef with the back of the spoon. Cook until most of the beef is browned, about 5 more minutes.

3. Add potatoes and broth or water, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

4. Serve with warm tortillas, sliced jalapeños and scallions, and some lime wedges for squeezing.