grilled shrimp and tomatillo enchilada casserole

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I made this at the end of one of those days that felt like I’d spent entirely too much time in the kitchen creating messes and then cleaning them up. The last thing I wanted was yet another project that would lead to yet another load of dishes. I needed to simplify.

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And so I did. As long as I was already grilling the tomatillos for the sauce, I went ahead and grilled…everything. The shrimp and onions that were intended to be sautéed on the stove, the tortillas that would have needed steaming (or frying) to roll. And forget rolling – I gave up on rolling tortillas for enchiladas years ago when I got lazy. Now I just create layers of filling and tortillas, like a chile-filled corny lasagna.

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I don’t know if it was despite the shortcuts or because of them, but this is one of the favorite meals I’ve made lately. I was surprised that no single ingredient stood out – the dish didn’t taste particularly shrimpy or oniony or cheesy. I thought for a second that this meant I should have added more shrimp (or onions or cheese), but then I realized that it would be hard to improve on what I had. Especially considering that it hardly dirtied more dishes than the baking pan.

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One year ago: Sweet Corn Hash
Two years ago: Penne alla Vodka
Three years ago: Pasta with No-Cook Tomato Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella
Four years ago: Country Egg Scramble

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Grilled Shrimp and Tomatillo Enchilada Casserole (adapted from Bon Appétit via Confections of a Foodie Bride)

Serves 6

I used 2 ounces of roasted, peeled, and seeded Hatch green chiles in place of the jalapeno.

You could probably skip the scallions if you didn’t want to buy them.

½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chile powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
20 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
18 corn tortillas
12 ounces (about 8) tomatillos, husks removed
1 jalapeno
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 scallions
½ lime
¼ cup cilantro leaves
salt
12 ounces queso fresco, crumbled

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with nonstick spray. Prepare a grill with a medium-hot side and a cooler side.

2. In a large bowl, combine the cumin, chile powder, and olive oil. Add the shrimp; toss to coat. Thread the shrimp onto skewers. Thread the cubed onions onto skewers. Spray or lightly brush the onions and the tortillas with oil.

3. Grill the skewered onions over the cooler side of the grill until slightly softened and browned on the edges, about 10 minutes. Carefully place the garlic over the cooler side of the grill; heat until softened, about 4 minutes. (If the grill grates are too wide to hold the garlic cloves, skewer them with the onions.) Grill the tortillas over the hotter side of the grill until they begin to brown, about 30 seconds per side. Grill the shrimp on the hotter side until they begin to brown, 1-2 minutes per side. Grill the jalapeno over the hotter side of the grill until it’s blistered and mostly blackened, about 5 minutes, rotating occasionally; when cool enough to handle, remove the stem and seeds. Grill the lime, cut-side down, over the hotter side of the grill until it begins to brown, 2-3 minutes. Grill the scallions, with the white sides over the hotter side of the grill and the green sides over the cool side, until lightly browned, about 1 minute.

4. Remove the shrimp and onions from the skewers and transfer to the bowl of a food processor; process until coarsely chopped; transfer to a bowl. Add the tomatillos, jalapeno, garlic, scallions, juice from the lime, cilantro, and ½ teaspoon salt to the food processor; process until smooth.

5. Spread a thin layer of the tomatillo sauce over the bottom of the prepared pan. Distribute 6 tortillas evenly over the sauce. Top with one-third of the remaining sauce, then half of the shrimp mixture and one-third of the cheese. Repeat the layering of tortillas, sauce, shrimp, and cheese. Distribute the remaining tortillas over the cheese, then the remaining sauce and remaining cheese.

6. Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is browned and the casserole is bubbling around the edges, 30-40 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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quinoa black bean burrito bowls

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I know there’s nothing groundbreaking about this combination. Topping black beans and starch with lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese is always going to be good. Still, it’s worth talking about, just because it’s such a tasty meal, not to mention it has all of my other favorite dinner characteristics – it’s healthy, easy, and flexible.

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When I made this, I prepared the quinoa and black bean mixture over the weekend. The next night, when I knew I’d be getting home late, all I had to do was heat up the base and chop the toppings. Not that the first step takes long on its own, as it’s just sauteing onions with garlic and spices, adding liquid and quinoa to simmer, and stirring in black beans. But it’s nice to have meals that aren’t any worse for being made ahead and reheated.

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I’ve put these same toppings in tortillas with meat and beans, as well as over rice instead of quinoa, and it never fails to turn into a meal I love. Adding the fresh vegetables provides a bright, fresh contrast to the warm spicy beans and carbs. Classic flavors, combined in a slightly new way – it isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s one of my favorite new weeknight meals anyway.

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One year ago: Chocolate Friands
Two years ago: Baked French Toast
Three years ago: Potato Tomato Tart
Four years ago: Banana Nutella Crepes

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Quinoa Black Bean Burrito Bowls (adapted from Shiksa in the Kitchen via Prevention RD)

Serves 4

I also added about 4 ounces of Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced, when I stirred in the lime juice.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
¼ teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 cup water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
juice of ½ lime
toppings – shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cilantro, cheddar cheese or queso fresco, diced avocado, salsa, sour cream or Greek yogurt, black olives

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just browned at the edges, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water, quinoa, and black beans; bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 15 minutes; without removing the lid, let the quinoa sit off the heat for an additional 10 minutes, until tender. Remove the lid, add the lime juice, and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Serve with your desired toppings.

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key lime cheesecake

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This was the last of my three birthday cakes. That’s right, I got three birthday cakes. The first was the blackberry oreo cake while on vacation with my family, and then I brought funfetti cupcakes to work, and then I made this one for myself to enjoy over my birthday weekend. Making three birthday cakes really takes the pressure off of making the perfect choice. You can have the dramatic, the fun, and the rich. (Okay, I confess that they’re all rich.)

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Although cheesecake might not seem like a traditional celebration cake, this one, with its four separate layers, is certainly involved enough to qualify. The graham cracker crust and zest-infused cream cheese might be expected, but it’s the layer of curd under the cream cheese that delivers most of the lime pucker. I had some reservations about the sour cream topping, but the sweet-tart coating complimented and balanced the lime and sugar in the other layers.

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It probably isn’t right to choose favorites, is it? Something went wrong with the funfetti cupcakes, so they don’t stand a chance anyway.  The blackberry oreo cake was tall and colorful and had dark chocolate and bright berries, so there’s no complaints there. But…cheesecake always wins.  If I’m ever confronted with a one-cake birthday again, remind me: cheesecake.

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One year ago: Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken
Two years ago: Whole Wheat Challah
Three years ago: Vegetable Curry
Four years ago: Fruit Bruschetta

Key Lime Cheesecake
Key Lime Cheesecake (from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

I used Key limes, but you can certainly use regular (Persian) limes instead.

The recipe calls for an 8- or 8½-inch round springform pan, but if you only have the more common 9-inch springform pan, you can certainly use that. I made a half recipe, split between a 5-inch round pan and a 3.5-inch round pan.

Crust:
12 whole graham crackers
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Lime custard:
6 large egg yolks
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) sugar
6 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice
1 teaspoon grated Key lime zest

Filling:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
⅔ cup (4.67 ounces) sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons fresh Key lime juice
1 tablespoon grated Key lime zest

Topping:
1 (16-ounce container) sour cream
3 tablespoons sugar

1. For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8- to 8½-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Wrap a layer of foil around the outside of the pan. Place the springform pan in a large baking pan with at least 2-inch sides. Bring 6 cups of water to a simmer; cover to keep warm.

2. In a food processor, process the graham crackers, sugar, and salt until evenly ground. Add the butter and pulse to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until fragrant and browning slightly around the edges, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, maintaining the oven temperature.

3. For the lime custard: In the top of a double boiler or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, lime juice and zest. Cook, whisking frequently, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes.

4. For the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a medium mixing bowl with a hand mixer), beat the cream cheese until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar, salt, and lime zest; beat until light, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until each addition is incorporated. Add the lime juice, blending well.

5. Scrape the lime custard over the crust, spreading it into an even layer. Spoon the cream cheese filling over the custard. Add enough of the hot water to the larger baking pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake until the middle of the cheesecake is almost set, but not puffed and center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes.

6. For the topping: Stir the sour cream and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl to blend.

7. Remove the hot cheesecake from the oven, leaving it in the baking pan. Carefully spoon the sour cream mixture over the hot cheesecake; let it set a few seconds to soften, then smooth it into an even layer. Bake the cheesecake for 10 more minutes. Transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead.) Release the pan sides from cheesecake; serve.

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summer chopped salad with feta

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I wore out coleslaw. It was too convenient and easy and good and healthy, so I made it whenever we had pulled pork or burgers or barbecue. And that was fine for a while, for over a year, in fact, but now I’ve had enough. I needed something new to catch my fancy.

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I found it. This is my new favorite side salad for a number of reasons. For one thing, it passes the no-lettuce test; delicate lettuce-based salads seem so out of place next to a hearty burger. It goes without saying that a side salad should be healthy and easy, and this one is.

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And maybe most importantly, it’s adaptable. I’ve been making coleslaw nearly the exact same way for well over a year, but this salad can be made with different vegetables, different types of citrus juice, and different seasonings to match the meal you’re serving it with. The original recipe used lime juice and cumin for a southwestern vibe, but I wanted something more Mediterranean, so I went with lemon juice this time.  It went perfectly with spareribs.  Coleslaw has been relegated from my favorite summer side to just my favorite pulled pork topping.

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One year ago: Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Muffins
Two years ago: Tarte Noire
Three years ago: Seafood Lasagna
Four years ago: Salmon Clubs with Avocado Butter

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Summer Chopped Salad with Feta (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 8 as a side dish

I steamed the green beans for about 1 minute, then did not blanch them (dip them into ice water to stop the cooking). If you do plan to blanch your beans, cook them for another minute or two. My beans looks olive green instead of bright green in the photos because I took these pictures the day after I made the salad, and the citrus juice had darkened the beans.

16 ounces green beans, lightly cooked, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
2 cups (7 ounces) radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1 hothouse or 3 English cucumbers (5 ounces total), halved lengthwise and sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled feta
¾ cup toasted sunflower seeds, salted or unsalted
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix everything except the olive oil.  Add the oil and more salt to taste.

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shrimp and crab avocado salad

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It never fails that I plan lettuce-based salads for dinner on nights when I want something light and quick, forgetting, every time, that the time-consuming part of cooking isn’t waiting for onions to sauté or sauces to simmer, it’s preparing your ingredients. And the process of making salad is almost entirely chopping. And if you’re like me and you like your main dish salads with a lot of components, the time it takes to prepare each one can really add up.

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This salad required slicing shrimp in half lengthwise (I’m not sure why I bothered with this and I don’t recommend that you do), dicing avocado, picking crab out of its shell, and mixing up the dressing. And then cooking bacon at the last minute because I forgot about it earlier (I don’t recommend you do this either). It doesn’t sound like much when I say it that way, but it sure felt like a lot after an early morning run, a full workday, and a big grocery shopping trip.

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You must already know that it was worth the effort or I wouldn’t tell you about it. Truly, I loved this salad and will certainly make it again – but only when I have plenty of time, or at least energy, to spare.

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One year ago: Creamy Taco Mac
Two years ago: Pasta with Goat Cheese and Asparagus
Three years ago: Honey Peach Ice Cream
Four years ago: Croque Madame

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Shrimp and Crab Avocado Salad (adapted from Maggiano’s)

Serves 2

Dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
½ teaspoon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
pinch pepper
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salad:
2 slices bacon
½ pound cooked, peeled shrimp
1 cooked king crab leg, shelled
1 avocado, peeled and diced
4 cups lettuce (about 8 ounces), torn into bite-size pieces

1. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, whisking continuously. Taste the dressing by dipping a bite-size piece of lettuce into it, then add more oil to taste, if desired.

2. In a small skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove from the pan and break into small pieces.

3. Combine the shrimp, crab, and avocado in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dressing; toss to coat. Transfer the lettuce to a separate large bowl (or in individual serving bowls); mix with the remaining dressing. Top the lettuce with the shrimp mixture and distribute the bacon over the salad. Serve immediately.

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watermelon agua fresca

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This is the first watermelon I’ve ever bought. The thing is, I don’t actually like watermelon. Because it tastes like water. And if I want water, I’ll just drink some; no need to eat faintly sugary overly soft fruit.

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But, I see now – sugary water, isn’t that the perfect base for a drink? It isn’t quite enough on its own; after all, watermelon is bland. But with some tart lime juice to brighten it up and maybe some mint, now we’re talking. Basically, think of the most supremely refreshing ingredients you can, then blend them up and serve them over ice.

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This is so good that Dave had to verify with me that there was no alcohol in it. Yes, a refreshing summer citrusy drink without tequila or rum! I will be buying many, many more watermelons.

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One year ago: Strawberry Cream Cake
Two years ago: Turkey Burgers
Three years ago: Potato Galette
Four years ago: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

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Watermelon Agua Fresca (adapted slightly from sunny vegan)

6 servings

8 cups cubed, seeded, peeled watermelon (about a third of a medium watermelon)
6 tablespoons lime juice
4 sprigs mint (optional)
ice
sparkling water

In a blender or food processor, puree the watermelon, lime juice, and mint. Pour the mixture into a fine-mesh strainer (or a colander lined with a single layer of cheesecloth); set aside for 30 minutes for the liquid to drain, stirring occasionally. Discard the solids in the strainer. Serve the remaining liquid over ice, topped off with sparkling water.

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lemon ricotta cookies

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Due to the knee injury that’s kept me from working out at my normal intensity for four months (and counting), I mostly gave up baking for a while. Most of the baking I’ve done recently has been to use up the surplus of organic lemons I keep ending up with as a result of buying them in bags in the Big City. I hoard them until the week before I plan to head back to the Big City, and then I figure that I’d better get rid of them so I can justify buying more.

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I’m not sure my coworkers have noticed the prevalence of lemon treats I’ve brought in to share. It started with the pound cake, and then, weeks later (a departure from the once a week or so I used to bring stuff in), there were these cookies. Next week, it’ll be lemon cream tartelettes.

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I don’t think anyone has minded, considering that several people came by to tell me that these might be the best thing I’ve shared yet. (Questionable.) More tiny glazed cake than cookie, I definitely understand the popularity. But now that I’m almost back to my normal workouts, my coworkers better brace themselves for something besides lemon – by which I mean chocolate, of course.

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One year ago: Basic Coleslaw
Two years ago: Quinoa Tabbouleh
Three years ago: Croissants
Four years ago: Ricotta Spinach and Tofu Ravioli

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Lemon Ricotta Cookies with Lemon Glaze (slightly adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis via Apple a Day)

Cookies:
2½ cups (12 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Glaze:
1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

2. Place the sugar, salt, and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl if you’re using a hand-held mixer). Beat on medium-low speed until the sugar looks slightly moist. Add the butter and continue beating on medium-low until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time. Add the ricotta and lemon juice, then continue mixing on medium speed for about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, mixing just until evenly combined.

3. Spoon the dough (about 1 tablespoon for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 8-11 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.

4. For the glaze: Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about ½ teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours before serving.

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fish tacos

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For a while there, I made fish tacos more than any other meal. That might only be once a month or so, but for this household, once a month is considered heavy rotation. Unsurprisingly, with that much iteration, the original recipe has gone through some modifications.

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In fact, I now have two versions that I alternate between, an easy weeknight version cooked on the stove, plus a smokier grilled option using a firmer fish. The indoor recipe is similar to the original, except now I like to combine all of the toppings – cabbage, red onion, yogurt-based cilantro-lime sauce – into one slaw before building the tacos, which distributes the flavors better along with taming the onion’s bite and weighing down the cabbage – so you can fit more of it into each taco. The other important tweak is a squeeze of lime juice after the fish cooks, which refreshes the flavor of the marinade.

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When I have more time, I’ll (have Dave) heat the grill, and we’ll cook the fish outside. I like thin tilapia filets for cooking on the stovetop, but something firmer, like halibut, is required for the grill. And if the grill is already hot, I’m definitely going toast the tortillas on there, and I might consider grilling the onions as well.

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Sadly, I don’t make fish tacos as often anymore, because I realized that the tilapia available in my town isn’t sustainably produced. Halibut, my favorite variety for grilling, isn’t sold at all here, so I only get to make that when I buy it in the Big City.  But, catfish is readily available here, and it seems like it would make excellent tacos.  I’ll have to test that out with one – or both – of my new and improved fish taco recipes.

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And if you run out of fish, this recipe works great with shrimp too!

One year ago: Lemon Bars (comparison of 3 recipes)
Two years ago: Cream Cheese Spritz
Three years ago: Strawberry Lemon Sorbet
Four years ago: Snickery Squares

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(Grilled or Pan-Seared) Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw

Serves 4

Marinade:
¼ cup lime juice (from 3-4 limes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
¼ cup minced cilantro, stems and leaves
6 (4 to 5-ounce) tilapia filets if pan-searing; 4 (6-ounce) halibut filets if grilling

Slaw:
2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
½ small red onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon table salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup Greek yogurt (or a mixture of yogurt and mayonnaise)
¼ cup minced cilantro
½ cabbage, cut into quarters, cored, and sliced thin

For the tacos:
1 tablespoon olive oil (if pan-searing)
1 tablespoon lime juice
8 (5-inch) flour tortillas
other possible toppings: green chile, avocados, cheese, salsa

1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the marinade ingredients, including the fish. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the slaw by combining the 2 tablespoons lime juice, red onion, ¼ teaspoon salt, pepper, and yogurt in a large bowl. Add the ¼ cup cilantro and cabbage, folding to evenly coat.

3. To pan-sear the fish: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook, without moving, until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip the fish and continue to cook until evenly flaky, an additional 2-3 minutes. To grill the fish: Heat a grill to medium-high. Oil the grill grate; grill the fish for about 8 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking.

4. Using two spoons, shred the fish into bite-size pieces. Pour the remaining lime juice over the fish; toss to combine.  Build the tacos by layering fish, slaw, and desired toppings on tortillas.

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meyer lemon semifreddo

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I traveled to Santa Fe last month for work, and while I didn’t love the day-long meetings all week, it was worth it to eat at Santa Fe restaurants and shop at Santa Fe grocery stores. I stopped at Whole Foods before I even checked in to my hotel, picking up some healthy snacks for the week and some sushi for dinner. I got pizza the next night (pizza – good pizza! – that I didn’t make myself!), but it was back to sushi the third night. The last day, after only six hours of meetings instead of the usual eight, I drove home, but not before making stops at both Whole Foods (where I got, you guessed it, more sushi to snack on during the drive home) and Trader Joe’s.

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Whole Foods had what must have been the last Meyer lemons of the season, and I couldn’t resist buying a few, even though I already had a bag of organic regular lemons in my cart. I could not, however, decide what to make with them. Like the last time I bought Meyer lemons, well over four years ago, I wanted something that would showcase their flavor so I could figure out just how much different they are from regular lemons.

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I diluted the flavor only slightly by mixing it with heavy cream, sugar, and egg yolks to make semifreddo. And if you’re paying attention while eating this dessert, the flavor has a little extra something, even beyond the sweeter orange hint of Meyer lemons. However, if you’re distracted by the light and airy texture that comes from freezing whipped heavy cream, I won’t blame you. And this indulgent dessert with a popular but elusive ingredient is all thanks to a week of meetings; traveling for work has its advantages.

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One year ago: Barbecued Pulled Pork
Two years ago: Grilled Artichokes
Three years ago: Basic Lentil Soup
Four years ago: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans and Balsamic Vinegar

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Meyer Lemon Semifreddo (from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Serves 8 to 10

While the recipe indicates that you can use Meyer or regular lemons interchangeably, Meyer lemons are significantly less sour than regular lemons. I used Meyer, but if you use regular, you should probably increase the sugar.

I used a round pan instead of a loaf pan, but other than that, followed the recipe exactly.

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1¾ cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1¼ cups (8.75 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons sugar
7 large egg yolks
½ cup fresh Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons finely grated Meyer lemon peel or regular lemon peel
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups mixed fresh berries (such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and quartered hulled strawberries)

1. Line a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang. Sprinkle almonds evenly over the bottom of the pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Refrigerate the whipped cream while making the custard.

2. Whisk 1¼ cups sugar, the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon peel, and salt in a large metal bowl to blend. Set the bowl over a large saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the yolk mixture is thick and fluffy and instant-read thermometer inserted into the mixture registers 170°F, about 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from over the simmering water. Using an electric mixer, beat the mixture until cool, thick, and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Fold in the chilled whipped cream. Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf pan; smooth the top. Tap the loaf pan lightly on the work surface to remove air pockets. Fold the plastic wrap overhang over top to cover. Freeze the semifreddo until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight. (Semifreddo can be made 3 days ahead. Keep frozen.)

3. Gently mix the berries and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes.

4. Unfold the plastic wrap from the top of the semifreddo; invert onto a platter and remove the plastic wrap. Dip a heavy large knife into hot water; cut the semifreddo crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Transfer to plates; spoon the berries alongside and serve.

dolmades

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Someone please tell me to stop making recipes that involve individually filling and shaping portions after a full workday! Last week it was these dolmades, this week it was tortellini. (Tortellini, it turns out, are a lot more time-consuming to make than ravioli. A lot.) Evenings after work are not a good time to take on ambitious cooking projects.

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It didn’t help that this venture started out with a jar full of grape leaves stuffed so tightly they wouldn’t come out. All I could think of to do was rip out the middle leaves in a messy clump to loosen up the remainder, which wasn’t very satisfying. Then I discovered that grape leaves are not a shape that lends itself to easy rolling. And finally, at the end of it all, I realized that the early step of boiling the grape leaves before filling them was more important than I had counted on when I cut it short in my rush to get dinner on the table.

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And then I learned that it doesn’t matter how smoothly the dolmades come together, because the combination of grape leaves, rice, and a lemony sauce will always be a hit. Even if the grape leaves mostly unroll. And they’re just a little tough. Even if dinner is nearly an hour late. Or maybe they tasted so good because dinner was an hour late?

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One year ago: Cornmeal Shortbread Cookies
Two years ago: Chockablock Cookies
Three years ago: Brownies (comparison of 4 recipes)
Four years ago: Cheesecake Pops (Daring Bakers)

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Dolmades (adapted from Elly Says Opa and Emeril Live)

Makes about 36

1 (8-ounce) jar grape leaves, or 36 medium-sized fresh leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup pine nuts
1 cup long-grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup currants (or raisins)
⅔ cup broth + additional for cooking dolmades
1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Avgolemono sauce (recipe follows)

1. Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer. Remove the grape leaves from the jar and drop them in batches of 4 or 5 into the hot water. Leave them in the simmering water for 4-5 minutes, then spread them flat on a towel-lined work surface. Cut the stem from each grape leaf, as needed.

2. In a large skillet over medium- high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and pine nuts and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the rice, salt, currants, broth, and the juice of half the lemon. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the parsley.

3. To assemble the dolmades, place 1 grape leaf on the work surface, dull side (or underside) of the leaf up. Place 1 to 2 teaspoons of rice filling near the stem end of the leaf. Fold the stem (bottom) end up over the filling, fold the sides toward the filling in the center, then roll up the leaf into a small cylindrical package, being careful not to fold too tightly, as the rice will expand during cooking.

4. Place the dolmades in a large Dutch oven or wide sauté pan, seam side down. Add the juice from the remaining lemon half, plus enough broth to just cover the dolmades. Rest a heavy plate or baking dish directly on top of the dolmades. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Serve with avgolemeno sauce.

Avgolemono Sauce (adapted from Elly Says Opa)

2 eggs
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
liquid from cooking dolmades

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the lemon juice until combined. Slowly drizzle the hot dolmades cooking liquid into the egg/lemon mixture, whisking continuously to avoid scrambling the eggs.

dolmades 9