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2017 Recipe Scrapbook

On this frigid New Year’s Eve, I thought it would be fun to document some of the recipes and corresponding occasions that warmed my kitchen (and my belly!) throughout the year 2017.

This year has been challenging, rich, full… then again, I suppose those are some pretty accurate descriptors for LIFE in general and not specific to any calendar year. I’m grateful that cooking has made the year fuller and richer (I think there’s a double entendre in there)!

I hope that this list serves useful to you if you’re looking for some inspiration for the coming year, and please do share your favorite recipes of 2017 in the comments section!

XO,
Ginger

Celebration Meals

mom and me smitten kitchenMy mom and I both gave each other Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites¬†this year for Xmas. (I credit my mom with teaching me how to cook, and she can thank me for introducing her to Deb Perelman ūüôā ) After driving back from Xmas celebrations in Chicago, I was eager to create a festive mood at home (and make the most of my week off from work) by trying the book’s¬†spiced carrot and pepper soup with couscous swirl, paired with a¬†kale caesar [salad] with broken eggs and crushed croutons:

soup and salad smitten kitchen

Go figure that in my anticipation of the cookbook, I borrowed my mom’s cast iron skillet to make Cacio e Pepe Potatoes Anna¬†from Perelman’s site. Potatoes wrapped with a bow, in my opinion:

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Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 1.36.44 PMIn August, my husband Padraic and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. I made a Jeffrey out of him with Ina Garten’s recipe for Real Meat Balls and and Spaghetti. (I love how Ina is always calling for food to be “real” — “real mayo,” for example. And I love her mixture of snobbery and warmth). You can read elsewhere on this blog about my first attempt with this dish.

When Padraic and I had my parents over for a celebratory dinner, I tried a recipe for sweet and spicy pineapple pork¬†from Rachel Ray’s Book of 10: More Than 300 Recipes to Cook Every Day.

Today, on New Year’s Eve, I’m experimenting with another recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook:¬†artichoke and parmesan galette. I tasted it for you… surprisingly lemon-y ūüôā

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Weeknight Suppers

Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes is just plain awesome for weeknight, aka, work night, cooking, because the meals are not only quick and easy, but flavorful and special-feeling. For some reason I lean towards chicken when making chinese food. Perhaps I need to get more adventurous. For now, here are two keepers:

Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken

Back in September, I tried slow cooker pesto mozzarella chicken pasta:

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Here’s are two more gems from Smitten Kitchen:

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

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Quick Pasta and Chickpeas

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And… two recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat¬†¬†that make for simple, special weeknight suppers:

Lemony Arugula Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe
Thai Beef Salad 

The Pioneer Woman’s Migas¬†is filling AND cheap:

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I happened upon this yummy recipe for cauliflower-cheddar soup¬†while waiting for a prescription to be filled ūüôā

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And finally, lentils! The theme of the new chapter in my life in which I’m paying out of pocket for health insurance AND paying grad school tuition. Thank God they’re so delicious!!

Fridge-Clearing Lentil Soup
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STUFF I MADE THIS SUMMER

I spent the summer querying a lot of magazines, writing a long-ass article about teaching gifted students that was finally published this month, for which I still haven’t gotten paid :/ getting accepted into an MFA program, hemming and hawing over whether to quit my teaching job and then writing what turned out to be a novella-length short story about a comically inept teacher for my workshop class, digging into my role as Aunt G, and cooking like a good ole southern Grandma for large family get-togethers…

Here is some of the STUFF I MADE:

The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti

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Orange Pound Cake

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Cristina Ferrare’s Strawberry Shortcake

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My Great-Grandmother’s Baked Beans ūüôā

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Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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Tomato Feta Pasta Salad

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Shrimp & Sausage Paleo Skillet Meal

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And a few more for good measure:

Mentoring on Sunday Afternoons

This last category is bittersweet… My mentee, a former resident of Epworth Children and Family Services, is currently “on run” and so we are no longer able to meet. For a few months, though, we filled our Sunday afternoons with cooking and scrapbooking about what we had cooked. When she told me that cooking — and documenting it — was how she wanted to spend our time together, I thought, girl after my own heart!

We did a bit of a tour through Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks:

Recently, when I received a one-line e-mail from her therapist saying that she was gone, I was tempted to view our time together as “a waste,” thinking back on the volunteer coordinator’s lofty words about how it “only takes one person” to make a difference in the life of a child. What difference could I possibly have made?? I lamented.

Today, and in the new year, if there are any resolutions to be made, I believe it is to withhold judgment about any of my pursuits (or relationships) and do my best to be present in them, living one day at a time. I am grateful for my brief time with a young, resilient 14-year-old young woman. It is enough for me that we had a good time together on a few Sunday afternoons in 2017. And yet… I’m glad that we documented our time together, so that some Sunday afternoon in 2018, I can return to this page, and remember her… and the food ūüôā

Cheers to the New Year, to cooking, and to treating time with a little bit of reverence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recommendations for Sanibel Island…and Beach-Side Musings

The salty, gritty scent of the gulf rolling onto crushed shell-bone and white sand… Clear, cerulean skies and hot sun… And, predictably, my favorite part: late, sun-kissed dinners teeming with fresh seafood, warm bread, and goldfish garnered salads.¬†

I grew up coming to Sanibel as a child, and this week my husband Padraic and I spent a week there with my parents¬†and one of my brothers. I’m not the best at relaxing on vacations — trust me, I spent much of the week in the condo in front of my computer, planning lessons, grading papers, and researching summer professional development opportunities. Any “color” I got is the product of Jergens Natural Glow. (Minus my two lobster red feet.) But as I get ready to board the plane back to my real life, I find myself eager to reminisce.

I talk about writing quite a bit on this site, and so it bears mentioning that I always associate my childhood Sanibel trips with writing and journaling and reflecting. And the book, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, given to me by my mother. There’s something about the pull and tug of the ocean that as a child/adolescent, called out my inner longings, surfaced my frustrations and fears, and got me in my feelings, in a broody, contemplative state that couldn’t have less to do with building an ambitious sand castle or getting a killer tan.

I also associate Sanibel with my mom, Jeanie. This is the only annual vacation she and my dad really allow themselves, and she always seems to take a bit of the island with her, sharing its breezy, pastel, wholesome elegance. Large bleached shells fill glass vases in their home, shell Christmas ornaments adorn their Christmas tree, and there’s even a Sanibel perfume that instantly makes me picture my mom’s master bath in her home in Saint Louis.¬†

But enough nostalgia…

This week Padraic and I indulged in daily yoga classes at Sanibel Pilates and Yoga¬†including Vinyasa, Hatha, Aerial, and a Pilates class for good measure. If you have a fairly advanced practice, the classes feel pretty light, but it’s a beautiful studio with warm and inviting instructors. Other than yoga, we did a lot of walking on the beach… eyeing a few brazen dolphins swimming close to shore.

My parents have it down when it comes to the Sanibel restaurant scene, so allow me to tell you what I ate all week. Interested? Good. 

So night one was The Timbers: a bustling, family-friendly joint with a great seafood market to boot. They serve goldfish instead of croutons in their simple house salad, which is the kind of thing that wins me over to a place. I had a hankering for crunchy fried shrimp that night, which was a treat, but I have to say, what impressed me most was the roasted vegetable medley of zucchini, carrot, and broccoli — buttery and super satisfying.¬†

Night two was The Green Flash, located on Captiva Island. This place is a local favorite, and they don’t take reservations. I opted for turf — a steak with grilled polenta and saut√©ed spinach. The meal was solid, but the best part of the experience was the sunset ocean view and the service — our waiter was a robust Russian dude with a “professional waiter” aura. (I think in my next life I want to come back as tattooed waitress who provides kickass service and never needs to write anything down).¬†

More yoga… More walking… More furious typing on a computer…¬†

Our third night in Sanibel was very special. Padraic’s cousin and his family live in Naples, so we made a trip to their house, after perusing a few art galleries and walking through Naples’s historic downtown (mighty hoity toity for my taste…) Steven and Laura are both architects (in business together), and Laura is a phenomenal cook. She served us a spinach salad with jicama, diced apples, orange slices, and a cilantro/lime/olive oil dressing, followed by cheesy chicken enchiladas and refried beans… then homemade flan for dessert.¬†

More yoga… More walking…¬†

Sweet Melissa’s was night four. Easily the best meal I’ve had all year, and possibly one of the best meals of my life. This place does take reservations — if you’re ever in Sanibel, make a reservation!¬†

The family split salads:

Here’s my personal favorite: big chunks of tomato and watermelon drizzled with basil infused olive oil and garnished with a generous square of feta, a large cornmeal crouton, and a few olives:

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Here’s a head of grilled romaine lettuce sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing:

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And here’s a goat cheese and beet get-up:

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Three of us got the same entree: sautéed scallops and chunks of pork belly served over a buttery sweet potato sauce. Holy crap. Who would have thought that pig and shellfish got along so nicely on top of a yam? 

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Finally, last night, I rolled up my sleeves and did a little cooking to thank my parents for all the indulgent meals… with another indulgent meal… ¬† Brown butter scallops, Parmesan risotto, and saut√©ed kale.

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A few notes on this recipe: 

  • The recipe title is a little misleading — the scallops aren’t actually cooked in brown butter; they’re saut√©ed in olive oil and then drizzled with some butter that’s been browned in a saucepan.¬†
  • You probably know this, but to get a nice sear on the scallops, pat them DRY.¬†
  • The risotto doesn’t call for any salt — the many ladles of chicken broth and pile of Parmesan cheese does the trick. That’s one reason I think this particular recipe for risotto is a good basic, bottom line risotto recipe to have in your repertoire, whenever you’re serving risotto as a side starch and not a main course. The instructions are simple and the result is scrumptious.
  • You probably know this, too, but when you’re saut√©ing kale or spinach in olive oil and you want it to cook down faster, add a splash of water… Helps soften and moisten the greens without making them oily. If I were at home, I would have added some red pepper flakes.
  • The whole plate is just crying out for a squeeze of lemon — I don’t know why the original recipe doesn’t mention lemons, for the love of God!¬†
  • Oh — one more thing — I seared all the scallops — large and small — for four minutes on each side. This worked out pretty well for me.

Okay… Home we go… Back to dead carrot fingers :/ I feel blessed, bloated, quite a bit spoiled, and totally overwhelmed by everything I have to do before Monday. Namaste.¬†

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Easy Cooked Carrot Recipes

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When a student told me that my tupperware container of balsamic roasted baby carrots looked like dead fingers, it was exactly what I needed to stop forcing forkfuls of the overwhelmingly sour, otherwise flavorless “fingers” down my gob.

We wasted a few more minutes of my plan time and his brief break from in-school-suspension talking about why he didn’t eat cooked vegetables, and then I made a trip to the vending machine. I think I ended up with a Kit Kat.¬†

I’m a big fan of Cristina Ferrare’s cookbook, Big Bowl of Love, but I’m not crazy about her penchant for drizzling roasted vegetables with reduced balsamic vinegar. Maybe I’m doing it wrong? You tell me. Not reducing the vinegar enough to sweeten it? Dumping instead of drizzling? Seriously, I want to be classy and drizzle a balsamic vinegar reduction over my vegetables… But the dead carrot finger experiment was off putting.¬†

Anyway, I can go through cooked vegetables like candy because they taste so sweet and buttery after cooking. Here is Ferrare’s cooking method, minus the balsamic glaze:¬†

Blistered Baby Carrots

  • Heat a LARGE frying pan over medium high heat.¬†
  • Scoop out a sizable chunk of ghee (clarified butter — it doesn’t burn at higher temperatures) and swirl to coat the pan.¬†
  • Shake in the whole bag of baby carrots and season generously with salt and pepper. Make sure all the carrots are lightly coated in butter. Add more butter if necessary ūüôā¬†
  • Cook until the carrots get a little char on them, and feel crisp-tender.¬†
  • Chop some fresh dill and sprinkle on top.¬†

Bonus: this recipe is Whole30 compliant! 

Speaking of kid-friendlier toppings for roasted vegetables that I can fully endorse, my new “jam” (a parent kept using that word during conferences about her daughter’s interests, it’s on my mind :)) is a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

These Parmesan roasted carrots are as lip-smacking to me as French fries. (I recommend halving the bigger carrots.) Roasting a large bag of large carrots whole feels refreshingly resourceful to me — bags of large carrots often linger in my vegetable drawer, and the good thing about roasting vegetables, ahem, is that you can work with the slightly shriveled, spotted stuff. The Parmesan precludes these from Whole30 compliance, but it’s a wholesome cheat… Just a sprinkle ūüôā¬†

Next I want to try Parmesan on zucchini wedges. 

Meanwhile, I’m on the hunt for a low calorie veggie dip that isn’t mustard and isn’t guacamole… Any tips??

Flank Steak, Mushroom, Arugula Pasta

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My favorite thing about being finished with the Whole30¬†is being able to cook in bulk, a few times a week, instead of an ongoing rotation of chopping and dishwashing. So far what that’s meant for me and my husband Padraic has been pasta salads full of veggies and protein. Tonight I tried a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Pasta¬†that’s a real keeper. Tasty, filling, healthy… Here it is, adapted by yours truly:

Flank Steak Pasta

  • Mince¬†1 large clove garlic¬†and mix it with¬†1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence.¬†
  • Sprinkle this mixture on both sides of¬†1 lb flank steak¬†and let the steak sit at room temp while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
  • Chop¬†a bunch of¬†arugula into¬†2 cups.¬†
  • Chop¬†1 lb¬†of mushrooms into small pieces. (Clean mushrooms with a damp paper towel — if you rinse them under running water they’ll become rubbery).
  • Whisk together¬†1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup julienned basil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper,¬†and¬†3/4 cup olive oil.¬†Set aside.
  • Slice the flank steak into¬†1/2-inch slices.¬†
  • Coat a large skillet with olive oil and warm over medium heat.
  • Cook several slices of flank steak at a time,¬†about 4 min on each side.¬†
  • Bring salted water to a boil in a big pot.
  • Cook 1 lb penne pasta for about 9 minutes (al dente) and drain in a colander, reserving some of the pasta water in a bowl underneath the colander.
  • Add some more olive oil to the skillet, add the mushroom pieces, sprinkle with salt, and cook for¬†4-5 minutes.¬†
  • Meanwhile, cut the flank steak strips into bite-sized pieces.
  • Dump the cooked pasta into a large bowl. Add the arugula, the cooked mushrooms, the steak pieces, the dressing, and a generous pour of the pasta water. Mix thoroughly with a spatula.

Enjoy!

 

Eating The Veggies

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As I mentioned in Chicken with Coconut Curry,¬†I’ve been more or less on the Whole30¬†¬†for the past 21 days. I’m still putting off the post when I explain my take-aways from the book¬†It Starts With Food¬†and the documentary¬†Fed Up. It’s just easier and less overwhelming to share my favorite recipes with you.

But first…

On Day 21, let me say this‚Ķ one of my cheats is that I’ve weighed myself regularly on my Whole30. I’ve only lost 3.5 pounds across 3 weeks. I lost all of it the first week and then plateaued. This majorly underwhelms me. It disappoints me. It discourages me. But Whole30 emphasizes¬†“Non Scale Victories,” and I’ve experienced many of these: Increased energy. An increased feeling of control over food, that I’m not merely subject to my sugar or junk food cravings. Feeling better in my clothes. Less inflammation¬†— my wedding ring slips off easy when I take a shower or wash the dishes or sink my hands into yet another bowl of ground meat, because lord knows, we’re eating a lot of it‚Ķ The pleasure and discipline of cooking a lot, and cooking clean‚Ķ The pleasure of a “clean full” feeling‚Ķ The pleasure that comes from shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and presenting your checker with piles of produce‚Ķ Which helps with the¬†evolving notion that I am not only “trying to healthy,” but in fact, I am a “healthy eater,” that healthy eating habits aren’t just something I do, but in theory, a growing part of my identity, a concept that Melissa Hartwig shares in this fascinating video about how her struggles with drug addiction have helped shape the outlook that defines the Whole30. Enjoying how¬†sweet¬†fruit tastes…

So it’s been‚Ķ¬†productive.¬†On the flip side, my husband, who actually needs to gain ¬†weight, has effortlessly shed five pounds, even though he eats an extra helping of white potatoes every meal. So I’m wondering if this is the healthiest thing for him‚Ķ

Bringing it back to the veggies… Here are a few veggie recipes that I will definitely keep making post-Whole30 because they are delish and doable. I hope you will give all of these recipes a try:

Roasted Onions & Cauliflower

  • To make this Whole30 compliant, I omitted the Parmesan cheese and substituted ghee butter for olive oil (which I would probably still do, post Whole30, because of butter’s rich flavor. If you use butter to flavor the veggies, I don’t really think you need the cheese).

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • Again, substitute ghee for olive oil if you want. I also recommend washing the sweet potatoes but not peeling them. I think they get a little crispier that way. These are especially delicious when dipped in some Dijon mustard.

Padraic’s Potatoes

  • Cube some Yukon gold potatoes.
  • Boil the bite-sized cubes for 10 minutes.
  • Roast with some cooking fat, salt, pepper and fresh or dried herbs of your choice for 40 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside ūüôā

Vegetable Hash, School Night

  • Add some cooking fat to a frying pan over medium high heat.
  • Let¬†1 yellow onion, chopped¬†and¬†1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, cubed into bite-sized pieces¬†saut√© until the potatoes are golden brown and soft, about 12 minutes.
  • Add¬†2 cloves garlic, minced¬†and cook about 2 minutes longer.
  • Transfer the contents of the frying pan to a bowl.
  • Do not wipe the pan clean; add more cooking fat. Over medium-high heat, cook¬†1/2 lb mushrooms,¬†seasoned with salt and pepper.¬†This takes about 4 minutes — you want the mushrooms to be soft and deep in color. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to the same bowl with the other ingredients.
  • Again, do not wipe the pan clean; add some more cooking fat and add¬†2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces¬†and¬†1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Season with¬†salt and pepper.¬†This takes about 4 minutes — you want the vegetables to soften. Add this batch to the bowl-in-waiting and season with¬†3 tablespoons fresh thyme¬†and a little extra salt and pepper.

 

 

Two Flank Steak Suppers

Still putting off a more substantive post on the Whole30 program and all that I’m learning about health, habits, and, let’s be real, expensive grocery bills, because I’m too impatient to share the delicious food that we’re enjoying. Both of these recipes come from Williams-Sonoma School ¬†Night: Dinner Solutions for Every Day of the Week¬†but they are Whole30 compliant, with a few tweaks.

Both of these meals are elegant in their simplicity, but most importantly, incredibly healthy for you. Here goes:

Flank Steak Salad with Grilled Peaches and Red Onions

  • Make a marinade for 1 lb of flank steak:¬†Whisk¬†3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, 1 large minced garlic clove, 1/2 teaspoon salt,¬†and 1/4 teaspoon pepper¬†in a small bowl. Dump your flank steak into a gallon Ziploc bag, followed by the marinade and shake to coat evenly. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
  • Make the dressing:¬†in a liquid measuring cup, whisk together¬†3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons minced shallots, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.¬†Slowly add¬†4 tablespoons olive oil¬†and mix to emulsify. Set aside.
  • Tear a¬†head of romaine lettuce (or whatever kind of lettuce you like) into a salad spinner; wash and dry.
  • Slice¬†2 red onions¬†into half rings. Pit¬†3 peaches¬†and cut them into thick slices. Mix¬†2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar¬†with¬†3 tablespoons olive oil.¬†Brush the onions and the peaches with the olive oil/vinegar mixture.
  • Heat a grill and grill the onions and the peaches. (Or, if you’re feeling lazy, like me today, omit the peaches and caramelize the onions in a big frying pan over low heat with the same olive oil/vinegar mixture, plus a sprinkling of salt and pepper).
  • Cook the flank steak: remove from the Ziploc¬†and slice into inch thick slices. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and fill the skillet with some cooking fat (I used ghee butter). Add as many slices as you can without crowding the pan and cook on each side for 5 minutes, turning with metal tongs. Reduce the heat to medium or medium low as necessary.
  • Assemble your salad and if you’re not following Whole30, add some blue cheese or feta crumbles.

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My nephew and chef-in-the-making grilled all the onions and peaches on a puny little Panini Press! And sported my “onion goggles” in the process. We all enjoyed the fruit of his labor:

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Flank Steak with Avocado & Tomatoes

This is an even simpler recipe than the salad above. The cookbook version actually calls for skirt steak, which is essentially a little beefier and tougher than flank steak, but very similar, according to¬†What’s the Difference Between Flank Steak and Skirt Steak?¬†To make:

  • Cut 1 1/2 lbs skirt or flank steak¬†into 1-inch or 1/2-inch slices, season with salt and pepper, and leave the slices to rest at room temp for 15 minutes.
  • Heat a frying pan over high heat and add some cooking fat (I used ghee butter, but you could use olive oil or coconut oil, or…??) Add the steak and cook until medium rare, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer the steak to a cutting board or a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Fill a bowl with¬†1 1/2 cups (9 oz)¬†halved cherry tomatoes,¬†2 cubed avocados, 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves,¬†and the juice of 1/2 lime.¬†Enjoy ūüôā

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Festive Summer Supper

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Check out this recipe from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook called School Night: Dinner Solutions for Every Day of the Week. “Mediterranean Shrimp with Feta, Olives, &¬† Oregano” has a few things going for it:

  • Healthy.
  • Good for company, good for the fam.
  • Mostly assembly and one dish, plus a sauce pan of couscous.
  • Shrimp! Olives! Feta! Yum!
  • Fresh herbs! But dried oregano works too.
  • I made it for my dad on Father’s Day. Good vibes. Make it for someone you love.

Materials

  • Colander
  • Sheet pan
  • Paper towels or cling wrap
  • Medium saucepan
  • Fork (for fluffing couscous)
  • Deep casserole dish
  • Chef’s knife
  • Cutting board
  • Measuring spoons
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Serving bowls

Ingredients

  • Box of couscous
  • Butter and kosher salt
  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra
  • 1 1/2 lbs frozen shrimp
  • Pitted kalamata olives, 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
  • Crumbled feta cheese, 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves or 2 Tablespoons dried oregano

Instructions

  • Thaw frozen shrimp in the fridge for a few hours in a colander on a sheet pan with cling wrap or paper towels draped over the top. Bring them to room temp and get rid of any ice crystals by running the colander under warm water at intervals and patting the shrimp dry as you make the couscous.
  • Make a box of couscous, following the directions on the package. I went ahead with a pad of butter and several pinches of salt, as called for my box. (The cookbook calls for Israeli couscous rather than the instant kind. I confess I’ve never made Israeli couscous, so you’ll have to comment if I’m missing out. The instant kind was yummy too).
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rinse, dry, and chop the tomatoes, placing them in the bottom of your casserole dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and mix well with your hands.
  • Bake for 8 minutes, until the tomatoes release their juices.
  • Check to make sure the shrimp is thawed. (The cookbook calls for raw, deveined shrimp but medium frozen ones cooked at the same temperature for the same time worked just as well).
  • Layer the cooked tomatoes with shrimp, olives, feta, and oregano. (The cookbook recipe calls for a half cup of both olives and feta, but I recommend more of each. Serve the remaining olives as an hors d’oeurve, or nibble while you’re cooking. Point is — jar should be consumed, some way or another.)
  • Bake 12 minutes. Drizzle the cooked casserole dish with olive oil and serve atop the warm couscous.

Serve with this simple, healthy Rachel Ray tomato, cucumber, red onion chopped salad if you want to round out the plate.

And finally, to end your summer meal, a berry pie. I adapted Joy the Baker’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Pie by substituting a pound of blueberries for the rhubarb, since zero out of three of my local grocery stores¬†were selling rhubarb in June. (Wha??)

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I also substituted half the lemon juice for orange juice, and added some orange zest and lemon zest to the filling.

Instead of pecans, I used store bought roasted, salted almonds for the crumb topping. But don’t make my mistake — thoroughly mix the butter with the flour, and this is key — before you add the nuts — otherwise you’ll end up with sections of raw, unbrowned flour on the top of your pie.

As for the crust, cold ingredients are key — dice the butter and then put it in the freezer for a few minutes, and keep the buttermilk refrigerated until you use it. This hand-mixed, buttermilk-congealed pie crust is one of the easiest I’ve ever made. The buttermilk really helps things come together to form a smooth dough.

I made two pies — for Clark, and for Patrick, my father and my father-in-law — and I learned these helpful hints about freezing a pie from The Kitchn. Long story short, if you tightly wrap and freeze an unbaked pie, the juices from the berries won’t make the crust soggy when you eventually bake it. So freeze pies unbaked.¬†Enjoy ūüôā

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