salted brown butter rice crispy treats

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Dave and I threw a couple Friday afternoon happy hour parties a while ago. The idea was that they would be really casual – just come over, hang out a bit, and then go on with your weekend. Dave joked that he was kicking everyone out after two hours.

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It worked out perfectly. Everyone we invited showed up and they really did leave after two hours, so we had the kitchen cleaned and were sitting down to relax with the last of the sangria by 8pm. I don’t know what everyone else did afterward, but…well, our friends are in their 30s and 40s, probably nothing exciting.

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We planned the first get-together on Thursday and it was happening Friday right after work, so this didn’t leave me much prep time. Everything I made was simple – bread with cheeses, salami, and sun-dried tomato jam, olives and marinated artichokes, popcorn with truffle salt, cayenne-spiced brittled peanuts, and these rice crispy treats. Thursday after work, Dave pretty much followed after me and cleaned up as I cooked.

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We came home from work on Friday, spent fifteen minutes setting out food and sangria, two hours chatting and eating with our friends, then fifteen minutes cleaning while congratulating ourselves on a party well thrown. People kept telling me that these were the best rice krispy treats they’d ever had, and I managed not to tell them that while a big pinch of salt and nutty browned butter helps, the real secret is almost three times the butter as the traditional recipe. A clean kitchen by 8pm and not telling your guests how much butter is in the food? That’s entertaining success.

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Salted Browned Butter Rice Crispy Treats (adapted from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter (wrapper reserved)
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 (10-ounce) bag miniature marshmallows
6 cups puffed-rice cereal (about half of a 12-ounce box)

1. Butter (or coat with nonstick spray) a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, cook the butter until it melts, then turns brown and smells nutty, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat; stir in the salt, then the marshmallows, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth. Fold in the cereal.

3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Use the reserved butter wrapper to press the mixture into the pan. Cool completely. When cool, invert the mixture onto a cutting board and cut into 24 squares. Serve.

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mulled wine cranberry sauce

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This, finally, is the cranberry sauce I’ve been looking for – the one that is worth making not just because making cranberry sauce is fun, but because this is better than anything you could buy. And it’s no more effort than any other cranberry sauce; the only difference between this and the most basic recipe is that wine is used to simmer the cranberries instead of water, and there are a handful of warm winter spices thrown in.

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With so much wine, you might think that the sauce ends up tasting like wine, but that isn’t the case. It tastes like something much more than the in-your-face tart and sweet of regular cranberry sauce, but it isn’t particularly boozy. It’s just deeper, more complex, with a little buzz on your tongue.

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Unfortunately, with half a bottle of wine stirred into one bag of cranberries, there’s no chance of claiming that all the alcohol cooks off, so this isn’t the best cranberry sauce for kids. That’s why my friend offered to bring a can of jellied cranberry sauce for her kids when I invited them over for a big turkey feast.

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When she forgot, we figured what the heck, what harm could a few tablespoons of winey cranberries do? Not much at all, it turns out, as her son took one spoonful of sauce, noted that there was wine in it, and pushed it aside in favor of the stuffing. So maybe it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely my new favorite.

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(turkey cranberry green chile sandwich on a crescent roll)

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Mulled Wine Cranberry Sauce (adapted from Bon Appetit via epicurious)

I pressed the sauce through a food mill right after simmering, because I like my cranberry sauce smooth.

zest from 1 orange
1½ cups red wine
½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed brown sugar
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
12 ounces fresh cranberries

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the berries burst and the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Transfer sauce to bowl; chill until cold. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

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chicken tikka masala

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Chicken tikka masala sounds so good in theory. It’s everything I love about Italian food – carbs and meat and tomato sauce mixed together – but it’s Indian food, which I also love. Except, the first time I made it, the similarity was too strong. I felt like I was eating spaghetti sauce with weird spices over rice when it should have been pasta.

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It took a couple years, but I finally got around to trying a new recipe. Maybe it’s the lemon juice in this recipe that makes all the difference, but there was no spaghetti confusion here. Marinara doesn’t usually have chili spices, ginger, and yogurt either.

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There’s one thing about this recipe that will seem strange and might make you uncomfortable, and that is that the chicken is not cooked all the way through on the grill. A trip to the grill (or the broiler) is important to really brown, even char, the meat, but then it’s chopped so it can finish cooking in the sauce. This gives it time to soak up some flavor from the sauce with drying out.

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It may be an unusual technique, but it works, because this is the best chicken tikka masala I’ve ever eaten. Of course, the only other chicken tikka masala I’ve eaten was the spaghetti one, so my basis for comparison is not large. Still, I know good when I taste it, and this is very good.

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Chicken Tikka Masala (slightly adapted from The Food Lab)

6-8 servings

3 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
12 cloves garlic, 8 smashed and 4 minced
3 tablespoons minced or grated fresh ginger, divided
2 cups yogurt
¾ cup fresh juice from 4 to 6 lemons, divided
salt
5 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (breasts, legs, or a mix), skin removed
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 cup heavy cream

1. Heat a small not-nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin, paprika, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne; toast, stirring constantly, until the spices begin to smoke. Immediately remove them from the pan so they don’t burn.

2. Combine 6 tablespoons of the spice mixture, 8 cloves smashed garlic, 2 tablespoons ginger, the yogurt, ½ cup lemon juice, and ¼ cup salt in a large bowl. Score the chicken at 1-inch intervals and immerse in the yogurt mixture; cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours, turning occasionally.

3. When the chicken has marinated, heat the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the foaming subsides. Add the onions, 4 cloves minced garlic, and the remaining 2 tablespoons ginger. Cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to brown at the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining spice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Puree, either with an immersion blender or in batches with a regular blender. Stir in the cream and the remaining ¼ cup lemon juice. Season with salt if necessary; set aside.

4. Heat a grill to high heat. Grill the chicken without moving until charred, 5-7 minutes. Flip the chicken and char the second side. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes. The chicken should not be cooked through. (The chicken can also be broiled instead of grilled.)

5. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces; transfer it to the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately with rice or naan, topping with the remaining cilantro.

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butternut squash soup with spiced creme fraiche

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I made this pumpkin mushroom soup a couple days ago using butternut squash instead of pumpkin, and it occurred to me that what was a pumpkin phase four years ago is now a butternut squash phase. I’ve been buying about two a week, and I’ve made all sorts of good stuff, like ravioli, chili, and lentil goat cheese salad. I was going to make squash kale pizza tonight, but some friends are getting together for dinner instead. I’m contributing butternut squash and green chile gratin. I thought about bringing this salad, but I already had it on the menu for next week anyway, so I know I’ll get to eat it soon.

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Butternut squash soup has kind of been on my radar to make, but I tried a recipe a few years ago that was good but nothing special, so I hadn’t gone back to the idea since. I ended up making this for a Saturday night dinner that I wanted to be as fall-y as possible. It was the perfect idea for a first course before roast chicken with potatoes and pan-roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots. Even better, a friend of mine was hosting a fall-themed dinner later that week and didn’t have time to test out a soup recipe, so I was able to help her out.

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I loved the soup, Dave loved the soup, my friend loved the soup, and then later that week, the rest of our group of friends said they loved the soup, several asking for the recipe. It’s kind of a subtle set of flavors, with nothing jumping out individually, but everything works well together. The star anise is interesting; if you think about it when you’re eating, it’s evident, but it and the cinnamon and nutmeg are balanced by the savory bay and thyme. The tart garnish (I made crème fraiche for the party but used Greek yogurt at home) was a nice complement since the soup is on the sweet side. I’m so glad I have a great butternut squash soup recipe after all these years – and it makes perfect sense that I would find it in the middle of a butternut squash phase.

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Butternut Squash Soup with Spiced Creme Fraiche (slightly adapted from Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing’s Southern Comfort via epicurious)

The original recipe calls for the big spices to be tied up in a cheesecloth bundle before being added to the soup. I’m sure they’re easier to remove before blending this way, but fishing out a few spices from a pot of soup seemed easier to me than digging out the cheesecloth from the pantry.

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large shallots, sliced
8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 star anise
4 whole peppercorns
½ cup white wine
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Spiced Crème Fraîche, for accompaniment

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven; heat the oven to 425 degrees. When it’s hot, remove the pan from the oven and spread the olive oil evenly over the surface. Transfer the squash and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper to the hot baking sheet; stir to coat. Roast the squash until browned on at least one side, about 25 minutes, stirring once.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges start to brown, 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper, bay, thyme, star anise, and peppercorns; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the pot, until reduced by half. Add the roasted squash, broth, cream, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Remove and discard the bay, thyme, star anise, and peppercorns. Puree the soup, either with an immersion blender or by transferring it in batches to a standup blender. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately, topped with Spiced Crème Fraîche. (Soup can be chilled for several days and reheated.)

Spiced Crème Fraîche

I actually don’t know how much of a difference the spices make, but I did like the tart dairy with the soup. Greek yogurt, sour creme, and crème fraîche will all work just fine.

1 cup crème fraîche
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Mix all ingredients.

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shrimp and andouille over green chile cheese grits

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For breakfast on Saturday, we had waffles and a fantastic sausage we picked up on a recent Texas wine-tasting trip. We had dinner at a friend’s cookout, and there were so many great side dishes there that I really didn’t need any grilled meat, but there were homegrown tomatoes and green chile for toppings, so I grabbed a hot dog anyway. For breakfast Sunday, migas with chorizo. For lunch, BLT salads. For dinner, andouille and shrimp over green chile cheese grits. We like our cured pork products.

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I’ve ordered shrimp and grits several times in restaurants, but it was never so good as this. These grits are enriched with butter and cheese, and if your andouille isn’t spicy enough, a jalapeno is added to the grits (I used Hatch green chiles). The shrimp is browned in butter and andouille drippings, then cooked through in beer and broth. As if there isn’t enough going on, the whole thing is topped with a fried egg.

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For as rich as it tastes and as full as I was afterward, it isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. For two servings plus some leftover grits, I used 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 ounces of cheese, no cream (I was out), and…okay, significantly more andouille than the recipe calls for. It was worth every greasy calorie, like cured meats always are.

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Shrimp and Andouille over Green Chile Cheese Grits (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

Serves 4 generously

I replaced the jalapeno with about ½ cup of roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced Hatch green chiles. Anaheim or poblano would be a good substitute, but I’m sure the jalapeno is good too. I used smaller shrimp (60-70 per pound) and skipped the tarragon.

Grits:
4 cups water
salt
1 cup yellow grits (not instant)
1 cup (4 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 jalapeño, seeded, diced
¼ cup heavy cream or milk
freshly ground pepper

Shrimp:
8 ounces andouille sausage
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup beer
¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
4 large eggs
salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. While continuously stirring, add the grits. Reduce to the heat to low to maintain a very slow simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more frequently as the mixture thickens, for about 30 minutes, until the grits are softened. Stir in the butter, jalapenos, cheese, heavy cream or milk, and pepper. Cover and set aside.

2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp, beer, and stock; cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and season with salt. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the whites are set and the yolks are soft, about 5 minutes.

4. Serve the shrimp mixture over the grits, topped with an egg and sprinkled with tarragon.

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salad with pancetta, peperoncini, and parmesan

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My favorite way to spend a Saturday night is cooking. It’s the only night of the week I feel like dinner can be a project; I’m busy being busy on weeknights, and I’m busy being lazy Friday and Sunday. So when I finally get the chance to cook a lot of food, I have a habit of cooking too much food.

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One strategy I use to eat as much as possible without stuffing myself silly is to eat in courses, with time between each to allow for some digestion. Another is to serve food that’s fairly light, so I don’t get filled up by just a few bites.

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This salad has become my go-to light salad course. It doesn’t hurt that it’s easy, plus the combination of ingredients is just perfect – briny peppers, salty meat, and parmesan to make it seem hearty and filling when it really isn’t. I’ve served it to pretty much everyone who’s come over for dinner in the last few months. I’ve also served at least four other courses each time, because there’s no better way for me to spend a Saturday night.

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Salad with Pancetta, Peperoncini, and Parmesan

Serves 4 to 6

Before adding garlic to dressings, I always toast it, with the peel on, in a dry skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the peel is black where it hits the pan.  It tames the harsh bite of raw garlic.

Dressing:
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salad:
2 romaine hearts, washed and chopped
8 peperocini, stems removed, chopped fine
6 ounces pancetta, cooked and crumbled
½ cup (1 ounce) shredded parmesan

1. For the dressing: Mix everything.

2. For the salad: Mix everything; toss with dressing.

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steak and egg green chile hash

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Where was this Hatch green chile mania back when I lived on the opposite side of the country from New Mexico? Back then, I had to have my mom send me boxes of fresh green chiles from Albuquerque. She’d pack newspaper in the boxes to help keep the chiles dry, poke holes in the box, and pay out the wazoo for overnight shipping. (Clearly I owe my mom a drink or two.) When they’d arrive, I’d broil them in batches until the skins turned black, then peel, chop, and bag them up. One time I forgot about wearing gloves, resulting in the worst burn I’ve ever had, not from temperature, but from spice.

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But that was years ago. Now I just head down to the local grocery store, buy 2 huge burlap sacks of fresh chiles, and bring it out to the guy roasting them in the parking lot. (Actually, I never do this; it’s become Dave’s errand.) Back at home, Dave and I put on latex gloves and start peeling, seeding, and stemming the chiles. At some point I’ll transition from peeling to chopping and bagging. The whole process takes about 4 hours, and at the end, we have a shelf in the freezer dedicated to our stash.

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I grew up in Albuquerque, and my family did this when I was a kid, as well. It’s only recently when anyone outside New Mexico could find Hatch green chiles. In fact, the “Hatch” title is a bit of a misnomer – Hatch is a place, not a variety of chile. Green chiles are grown in Hatch, but they’re also grown in the rest of the state. This year, Dave bought our green chiles from a farm in Artesia, so technically they’re not Hatch green chiles at all, but since people seem to recognize Hatch as a type of chile, we’ll stick with that title.

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Most New Mexicans don’t need a recipe for how to use their green chiles. They just add them to their favorite foods – there’s no Hatch chile macaroni and cheese, there’s just your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe with chiles stirred in. The same goes for cheeseburgers, pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches…are you seeing a pattern? Green chile is really good with carbs and cheese.

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In this case, we don’t need cheese, just steak, leftover if you have it. Because green chiles are also really good for breakfast – migas and huevos rancheros are my favorite two breakfasts, and now this is up there too. And fortunately, now that “Hatch” green chiles are making their way to almost all corners of the country, you can actually make this for yourself. That is a very good thing.

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Steak and Egg Green Chile Hash

Serves 4

Depending on how hot your chiles are, you might want to use less (or more) than this.

Photos show a half recipe made in a 9-inch skillet.

12 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, diced into ¼- to ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
salt
1 large onion, diced
8 ounces cooked steak, diced
½ cup Hatch green chiles, roasted, peeled, and chopped
8 eggs
ground black pepper

1. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine the potatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cover and microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir, then return to the microwave for another minute. Stir again, and if the potatoes are not softened to their centers, repeat the microwaving until they are; larger cubes will need more time.

2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the potatoes and steak and cook, without stirring, until the bottom is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes without stirring. Stir in the green chiles. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

3. Using the back of a spoon, create 8 wells in the hash. Break one egg into each well; season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan and cook, without stirring, until the white is set, about 6 minutes. Serve immediately.

chicken curry

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I don’t get too hung up on authenticity. If the food is good and I can find the ingredients, I’m happy. On the other hand, I’m not opposed to authenticity if I can get it. This recipe strikes me as pretty close, and it was good and I was able to find the ingredients, so it was a score on all accounts.

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Indian food might be an easier cuisine to tackle in a town without specialty food stores than something like Chinese food, which always seems to involve ingredients I can’t find. This recipe in particular is a pretty standard list of ingredients – a lot of spices but nothing unusual, chicken, tomatoes, cilantro. The quick marinade of nothing but lemon juice, salt, and pepper was unusual, but considering how good this recipe was, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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The spices are toasted, onions and garlic are processed into a paste that is then browned, then tomatoes are added and the chicken braises in this mixture until tender and infused with flavor.  It wasn’t a difficult or time-consuming recipe, and served with coconut rice and cinnamon cumin roasted cauliflower, we had a fantastic meal of Indian food – something not found often in a small town in southeastern New Mexico.

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Chicken Curry (adapted from Indian Simmer)

Serves 6

I prefer whole canned tomatoes to diced, especially for something like this, because diced tomatoes contain more citric acid, which keeps them from breaking down into the sauce as smoothly.

¼ cup lemon juice from 1-2 lemons
salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
2½ pounds chicken thighs
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
2-3 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole black cardamom
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 cloves
3 dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons coriander powder
1½ teaspoons garam masala powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup minced cilantro

1. In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Add the chicken; stir to coat. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, transfer the onion, ginger, garlic, and peppers to the bowl of a food processor; pulse until pureed to a paste. Crush the cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and cloves in a small bowl.

3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat until it flows like water when the pot is tilted. Add the crushed spices, bay leaves, coriander, garam masala, and turmeric; cook, stirring continuously, until they just start to smoke. Add the onion mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is dry and golden brown. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the tomatoes. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken and stir to coat in the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the liquid is reduced to a sauce.

4. Add the butter and stir until blended. Cover; let set off the heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve with rice or naan.

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shitake mushroom and lentil asian tacos

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Vegetarian food, for me, means something quick and easy, healthy, perfect for a weeknight dinner. There’s no fussing with the handwashing of cooking with chicken, no long braising times. Most are one-bowl meals that don’t require side dishes. The exceptions to these rules invariably include lots of cheese, almost certainly pasta, and a long prep time – and are relegated to weekend meals.

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Few and far between are vegetarian meals that are not only healthy and delicious, but also feel special. This is one. First, it’s tacos, and I’m not out of my taco phase. Second, so many fillings and toppings in the tacos satisfy all sorts of flavor and texture desires.

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The mushroom-lentil mixture has plenty of ingredients that kick up the umami sensation that usually comes from meat. The miso and soy sauce in the sauce don’t hurt either, but the sauce is about more than just umami; it’s sweet and herbal and a bit sour from the rice vinegar. There’s crunch from the carrots and the buttery richness of avocados. All of it combines to form a special occasional dish that is perfectly healthy and not just vegetarian, but vegan. It’s a far cry from most of my favorite vegetarian dishes, and I love it.

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Shitake Mushroom and Lentil Asian Tacos (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen)

Serves 4 to 6

I toasted the garlic, while still peeled, in a small not-nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the papery peel started to brown on a few sides. This softens the bite of raw garlic, making it sweeter and more mellow.

My favorite new way to soften corn tortillas for tacos is to spray both sides of them with oil, then heat them in a 400 degree oven until pliable, about 5 minutes. Even better, add some of the mushroom-lentil mixture to the tortillas at that point and fold the tortilla over the filling; continue baking until the tortilla starts to crisp, another 3-5 minutes.

I grew radish sprouts just for this recipe, but they didn’t sprout in time. Bummer. They made a good garnish for avocado and shrimp-filled tortilla cups the next day though.

Miso herb sauce:
3 garlic cloves, peeled (see note)
2 packed cups basil leaves
1 packed cup cilantro
2 tablespoons white or yellow miso
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons orange juice
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Tacos:
¾ cup brown or green lentils
salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, thinly diced
12 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
about 16 corn tortillas, warmed (see note)
2 large or 3 small avocados, peeled and sliced
5 small carrots, peeled and grated
micro greens, for garnish (see note)

1. For the sauce: Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the cutting blade; process until minced. Add the herbs and process until pureed. Add the remaining ingredients and process until the sauce is evenly mixed. Transfer to a serving bowl; set aside.

2. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the lentils and ½ teaspoon of salt. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, until tender. Drain.

3. In a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened and translucent. Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften and release their liquid. Once the liquid evaporates, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and cook until the mushrooms and onions brown. Stir in the cooked lentils and the cider vinegar.

4. Stuff each tortilla with the mushroom-lentil mixture, carrots, avocado, microgreens, and miso-herb sauce. Serve immediately.

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asparagus bacon and egg salad

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I have a nephew who is so picky that he wouldn’t eat blueberries in the middle of the summer. Blueberries! They might as well be candy that happens to be good for you. He was in elementary school then, but things aren’t much better now that he’s starting high school in the fall. Last winter, he balked at asparagus.

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Dave, understanding teenaged boys all too well because he still thinks like one (I dare you to tell him a poop joke), found the trick to making picky adolescents eat asparagus – tell them that their pee will smell like asparagus later. For better or worse, this is a phenomenon I have never noticed myself. My nephew choked down a few spears, but either it wasn’t enough or he isn’t subject to the asparagus pee smell either, because he responded in the negative when we quizzed him the next day.

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If you’re less interested in discussing (I accidentally typed “disgusting” first, which probably isn’t a coincidence) the smell of urine at the dinner table, perhaps adding bacon is a better way to make asparagus seem tempting. With eggs added as well, this is more like breakfast than a salad – which is exactly how I like my salads, as a light meal masquerading as a decadent one.  Not being a huge fan of asparagus myself, this might be my favorite way to eat it – and I, personally, find the lack of asparagus pee the next day to be a relief.

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Bacon Egg and Asparagus Salad (adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table via A Taste of Home Cooking)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bunches (about 2 pounds) asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 ounces (about 4 slices) bacon, diced
6-8 eggs
4 cups spring mix
1 avocado, peeled and diced

Dressing:
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and heat to 450 degrees. Once hot, spread the oil over the pan and add the asparagus; season with salt and pepper and stir to coat with oil. Return the pan with the asparagus to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.

2. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off all about 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Crack the eggs into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and add 2 tablespoons of water. Immediately cover the pan and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks are soft.

3. Mix all of the dressing ingredients.

4. Combine the spring mix, avocado, bacon, asparagus, and dressing. Top each serving with 1-2 eggs.

asparagus bacon salad 6