black bean burgers

black bean patties 4

I actually don’t have any need for a black bean burger. Because Dave and I eat either vegetarian or fish during the week, I’m always ready for some meat by the weekend. And I don’t eat much bread on weekdays either (other than my daily bagel at work – best part of the workday!), so I wouldn’t pair vegetarian burgers with buns. But on top of slaw, now that works.

black bean patties 1

This recipe doesn’t have (much of) my other issue with most vegetarian burgers, which is that they’re usually bound with large amounts of breadcrumbs or other grains, so you’re, in essence, putting carbs on a bun. This mix does have some bread crumbs, but it’s also bulked up with extra protein from cheese and nuts. They’re not there for your health though – they provide a nice variation in texture, so the burgers aren’t uniform, and they’re certainly not mushy, thanks to some time the beans spend in the oven getting dehydrated.

black bean patties 3

The mix itself was so good that I couldn’t stop eating it. Formed into patties and browned, it was that much better. What isn’t better with crisp, caramelized sides? I’m sure they’re great on a bun with your favorite burger toppings, but I loved them on a simple lime-cilantro slaw. I have finally found a place for black bean burgers in my life, and I have found the black bean burger to take that place.

black bean patties 6

Printer Friendly Recipe
Black Bean Burgers
(rewritten but hardly adapted from The Food Lab)

Makes 8 to 12 burgers (the patties in the pictures are each one-tenth of the recipe)

If your cashews aren’t toasted already, put them in the oven before the beans. Don’t do what I did and combine the two on one baking sheet; they’re treated separately in the food processor.

The recipe makes a lot. I formed the mixture into patties and froze most of them. They defrost and cook up perfectly.

According to the original recipe, you can grill these as well as pan-fry them, but I didn’t try it. You’d want to brush the sides with oil before grilling.

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large poblano pepper, finely chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus 1 teaspoon sauce
¾ cup toasted cashews
½ cup finely crumbled feta or cotija cheese
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the black beans evenly on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until the edges are splitting, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, poblano, and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just beginning to brown at the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the chipotle chile and sauce. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl.

3. In a food process, pulse the cashews until the largest pieces are about ¼-inch. Transfer to the bowl with the vegetables. Transfer the dried black beans and cheese to the food processor and pulse until the largest pieces are about ¼-inch. Transfer to the bowl with the cashews. Add the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper to the mixing bowl. Stir until evenly combined.

4. Form the mixture into patties ¾-inch thick. You can make them any size you want; I made about ten patties from this recipe, and they were each about 4 inches in diameter.

5. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add half of the patties and cook, without moving, until crisp and browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip the patties and continue cooking until the second side is browned, another 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining patties.

Lime-Cilantro Slaw

½ cabbage, sliced thinly
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup Greek yogurt
4 green onions (or half of a small red onion), minced
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large or 2 small carrots, shredded
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients.

black bean patties 5

grilled potato salad with watercress

potato salad watercress 5

Dave’s birthday, 2 weeks after Christmas, is at a sort of inconvenient time of year. My dad’s is January 2nd, and even that is better – in my family, the holidays are just one day longer than they are for everyone else. But a week later, you’ve had all the cookies and wine and cheese (or whatever your splurges happen to be) you want, but you haven’t had more than a few days to detox from the decadence. And yet, it’s time for banana cream pie.

potato salad watercress 1

I got Dave a cute little cast iron saucepan for the grill, so I had to plan a meal that would allow him to use it. He also got a new grill for Christmas, so I specifically planned a meal that would use both of our grills – barbecue pork ribs, grilled potato salad, grilled broccoli. And then the weather sucked, although we pushed through and grilled the ribs and potatoes still, but I roasted the broccoli.

potato salad watercress 2

It wasn’t the most indulgent meal ever, but extra vegetables are always welcome this time of year, so I chose the potato salad that actually looked like a salad. It’s not a traditional potato salad coated in mayonnaise, but I didn’t feel like we lost out for the healthier option. This was crisp and fresh, healthy enough for January, but still with satisfying browned potatoes and creamy cheese. It was just light enough to justify a big piece of banana cream pie for dessert.

potato salad watercress 4

Printer Friendly Recipe
Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress (from Bon Appetit via epicurious)

I’ve reduced both the potatoes (because I was trying to be healthier) and the blue cheese (because it can be too intense) from the original recipe, but I’m sure the original amounts are great too.

¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
1 large shallot, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil, plus more for grilling potatoes
6 medium red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled (about 1½ pounds)
2 bunches watercress, stems trimmed
3 green onions, chopped
¼-½ cup crumbled blue cheese

1. Combine vinegar, shallot, and mustard in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in ½ cup oil. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 16 minutes. Drain; cool completely. Cut potatoes into ¼- to ½-inch-thick rounds. Brush or spray rounds on both sides with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Grill potatoes until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Dice the potatoes into ½-inch cubes.

4. In a large serving bowl, mix the watercress, scallions, and most of the vinaigrette. Add the potatoes and the remaining dressing, and gently mix to coat. Top with the blue cheese; serve immediately.

potato salad watercress 3

chicken tikka masala

chicken tikka masala 8

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.

chicken tikka masala 3

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.

chicken tikka masala 5

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.

chicken tikka masala 6

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.

chicken tikka masala 10

Printer Friendly Recipe
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.

chicken tikka masala 9

prosciutto lamb burgers

prosciutto lamb burgers 5

The first place Brady, Nicole, and I went to when we met up in Austin for the BlogHer Food conference was Whole Foods. I love wandering around Whole Foods anyway, but this particular store is a special case – it’s a little ridiculous, in fact, how big it is. I went back on Sunday before I left Austin, and there were cops directing traffic in the Whole Foods parking garage, if that gives you an idea of the insanity.

prosciutto lamb burgers 1

Still, on Thursday evening when I was there with my friends, it was a lot more subdued than Sunday afternoon. We spent an hour or so wandering around the store, comparing the selection to our hometown stores and trying every sample in sight. These are the things food bloggers like to do together.

Dave, not so much. Now that he has an interest in cooking fish, he can at least spend a few minutes checking out that selection, but he spends most of the time in fancy grocery stores giving me impatient looks in between playing with his phone. It was a miracle when, on our last visit to Albuquerque to see my family, he went to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, a local butcher, and a giant liquor store with me all in one day, with no complaint.  He’d better be careful of the precedent he’s setting.

prosciutto lamb burgers 2

Maybe because he knows that the payoff is really good lamb, one of his favorite foods. I was just a bit concerned about adding so many flavorings to something that tastes great on its own, but I know Elly loves lamb as much as we do, so I put my faith in her. And in fact, the prosciutto complements the lamb nicely, adding its hint of funk to the lamb’s. And this is why I love food shopping so much, gathering riches that will eventually turn into Sunday night burgers, cooked in the backyard on a hot summer night.

prosciutto lamb burgers 3

Printer Friendly Recipe
Prosciutto Lamb Burgers (adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis via Elly Says Opa)

Serves 4

I skipped the parsley and the basil, the parsley because I forgot and the basil because I didn’t have it. Neither were missed. I also used parmesan instead of pecorino, again, simply based on what I had. I made 6 burgers out of this mix instead of 4, just because I like my burgers a bit smaller.

I’ve gotten in the habit of leaving the salt out of the meat mix and sprinkling a generous amount on each side just before cooking, based on this article.

½ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup (1 ounce) Pecorino Romano
¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground lamb
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of prosciutto
4 hamburger buns, toasted
fresh basil leaves
fresh tomato slices

1. Lightly mix together the breadcrumbs, parsley, egg, milk, Romano, sun-dried tomatoes, salt, pepper, and lamb. Form the mixture into 4 patties.

2. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, vinegar, and olive oil.

3. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Using a paper towel, grease the grates with vegetable oil. Grill the patties for 5 minutes; flip, add slices of prosciutto to the top of each patty, and continue grilling another 5 minutes.

4. Spread the mayonnaise mixture on both sides of the buns, then place the patties on the bottom of the hamburger buns and top with fresh basil leaves and tomato slices. Serve immediately.

prosciutto lamb burgers 4

manchego cheese and garlic hot dogs

garlic hot dogs 5

Maybe I shouldn’t play favorites between four fun and delicious hot dog recipes, but this one had roasted garlic, so…it’s my favorite.

garlic hot dogs 1

One thing I found through making four types of hot dogs in four days was that most hot dogs benefit from being topped with something vinegary to cut through the fat of the meat. Mustard and pickle relish are the traditional choices. In this recipe, it’s sherry vinegar, mixed into a relish of roasted garlic and roasted red peppers.

garlic hot dogs 3

Roasted garlic is always sweet and creamy and delicious, and a hot dog was just as good as a vehicle for serving it as my other favorite – plain rustic bread. It’s no wonder this ended up my favorite of the hot dogs from our Hot Dog Week. The roasted garlic made it a shoo-in.

garlic hot dogs 2

One year ago: Pasta with Salmon in Pesto Cream Sauce
Two years ago: Chocolate Frosting (comparison of 3 recipes)
Three years ago: Bacon-Wrapped Goat Cheese and Almond-Stuffed Dates
Four years ago: Honey Yogurt Dip
Five years ago: Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Printer Friendly Recipe
Manchego Cheese and Garlic Hot Dogs (adapted from Bon Appétit via Annie’s Eats)

Makes 6 hot dogs

Relish:
2 large heads of garlic, top ½-inch cut off
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup diced drained roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Coarse kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Sherry wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Hot dogs:
6 grilled hot dog buns
6 grilled all-beef hot dogs
2 ounces Manchego cheese, grated

1. For the relish: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Place each head of garlic, cut side up, in the center of a square of foil; drizzle each with 1 teaspoon of oil; enclose the garlic in the foil. Place the packets on the oven rack; roast until the garlic is tender, about 45 minutes. Open the packets; cool 15 minutes.

2. Squeeze the garlic cloves into a small bowl; mash. Mix in 3 teaspoons oil, the red peppers, and parsley. Season with salt, pepper, and sherry vinegar.

3. For the hot dogs: Arrange the buns on plates. Top each with a grilled hot dog, then cheese and garlic relish. Serve immediately.

garlic hot dogs 6

argentinian hot dogs

argentinian hot dogs 3

Dave and I had an impromptu get-together last fall, the same day I made cupcakes for a wedding. I already had these hot dogs planned for dinner that night, and without time to plan and shop for anything new, I had to accept that hot dogs would be the first thing I would ever cook for some of these friends. But at least they were fancy hot dogs.

argentinian hot dogs 1

They were one topping less fancy than when Dave and I made these recently during what was basically Hot Dog Week, because I simply ran out of time and energy to make chimichurri. But homemade buns, all-beef dogs, chorizo, pickled onions, Hatch green chile, and queso fresco were plenty of toppings. These were declared the fanciest hot dogs anyone had eaten. The chorizo stole the show, as it usually does.

argentinian hot dogs 5

But it’s too bad I didn’t get to the chimichurri the first time I made these, because it really does add a nice green element to the sandwich, which balances all the fat in the meats and cheese. Chorizo on its own makes one heck of a great hot dog topper, and I know one of our guests that day won’t make hot dogs at home without it now, but I love my hot dogs with something intensely vinegary, and this is even better because it has two different ways of drawing that flavor in, the onions and the chimichurri.  The only disadvantage is that this is so much stuff to fit into a hot dog bun that you’re bound to lose some of it on the plate, but serving hot dogs with a fork to scoop up extra goodies is a small price to pay.

argentinian hot dogs 4

One year ago: Marinated Roasted Tofu
Two years ago: Pasta e Fagioli
Three years ago: Oatmeal Pancakes
Four years ago: Crispy Bagel Sushi Roll
Five years ago: Olive Oil Bread

Printer Friendly Recipe
Argentinian Hot Dogs (from San Jose Mercury News via Oishii)

Makes 8 sandwiches

For the pickled onions:
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
¼ cup white wine or champagne vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar

For the chimichurri:
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch parsley leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
⅛ teaspoon salt

To assemble:
8 grilled beef hot dogs
8 buns
8 ounces ground chorizo, cooked
8 ounces queso fresco , crumbled

1. For the onions: In a small bowl, combine the onion, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.

2. For the chimichurri: Add the garlic to a food processor; process until minced. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; add the parsley and process until chopped. Add the remaining ingredients; process to combine.

3. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the hot dogs until they are browned and heated through, about 5 minutes. Toast the buns on both sides. Transfer the buns and hot dogs to plates. Fill each bun with a hot dog, chorizo, queso fresco, pickled onions, and chimichurri. Serve immediately.

argentinian hot dogs 2

bolognese hot dogs

italian hot dogs 6

Having my picture taken with the RockerDogz hot dog truck guy in San Antonio might be one of the dorkiest things I’ve done in my life. I did walk over two miles (in ballet flats – ouch!) to his truck, which already pretty well establishes that I’m an oddball. But when I was looking into where we should eat on our weekend in San Antonio last fall, this hot dog cart got more positive – raving really – reviews than any real restaurant. I was determined to eat there.

italian hot dogs 1

Once I had, I was then determined to steal all of his ideas to copy at home. Probably the best of the hot dogs we had from there were the Thai Kick Boxers, with a cabbage slaw, pickled Serrano peppers, cucumbers, and artfully applied sriracha. The dog topped with carne guisada was a delicious mess, and I was expecting the same from the Bolognese-topped sandwich, but not a drip was dropped.

italian hot dogs 2

And that one, at least, was easy to mimic at home. At least it would be if you had leftover Bolognese sauce lying around. I didn’t, but I did have pot roast pappardelle, so I finely shredded some beef into the sauce and then simmered the mixture until it was thick (and resembled something regurgitated, but let’s bypass that aspect of it).

italian hot dogs 3

The pot roast sauce was, as I said before, a little lighter in flavor than a red wine-braised roast or regular Bolognese would be, and the sweet all-beef sausage almost overpowered it. It was still really good though, and not nearly as messy as you might think; just like in San Antonio, we managed to eat our sandwiches without napkins or drips, so using a thick Bolognese (or whatever meaty Italian sauce you happen to have around) really makes a difference. It was just as delicious as the one we had in San Antonio, but this time, acquiring a tasty and creative hot dog didn’t give me any blisters.

italian hot dogs 5

One year ago: Lentil Salad with Squash and Goat Cheese
Two years ago: Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Three years ago: Chocolate Oatmeal Almost Candy Bars
Four years ago: Caramel-Topped Flan
Five years ago: Country Crust Bread

Printer Friendly Recipes
Bolognese Hot Dogs

Makes 8 sandwiches

8 all-beef hot dogs
8 hot dog buns, split
4 cups Bolognese sauce, warm
½ cup (1 ounce) grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Grill the hot dogs until they are browned and heated through, about 5 minutes. Toast the buns on both sides. Transfer the buns and hot dogs to plates. Fill each bun with a hot dog, then divide the bolognese sauce evenly between the sandwiches.  Top with parmesan and parsley; serve immediately.

italian hot dogs 7

muffuletta hot dogs

muffaletta hot dogs 4

When Dave and I were brainstorming how to maximize our glorious four days at home between traveling for Christmas and going back to work, the only idea we came up with that we actually stuck with was hot dogs for lunch every day. It was actually Dave’s idea, but I’m the one who made it awesome.

muffaletta hot dogs 1

If he was expecting four days of ketchup and mustard, he doesn’t know me very well. I couldn’t resist making four different types of hot dogs, requiring the purchase of approximately one million different ingredients that would we would use only a fraction of. Practical!

muffaletta hot dogs 2

Muffaletta from Central Grocery in New Orleans was the first time I saw Dave enjoy something with olives. And I’m not surprised, because those sandwiches were amazing. I had a feeling the briny topping would work well on fatty hot dogs, and I was right.  The provolone, slightly stinky, acts as a bridge.  You don’t need me to tell you how much I miss fancy hot dogs for lunch everyday now that we’re back at work, do you?

muffaletta hot dogs 3

One year ago: Grapefruit Margaritas
Two years ago: Beef Short Ribs Braised in Tomato Sauce
Three years ago: Apple Muffins
Four years ago: Chopped Salad
Five years ago: Banana Cream Pie

Printer Friendly Recipe
Muffuletta Hot Dogs (adapted from Bon Appétit, epicurious, and allrecipes)

Makes 8 sandwiches

If you don’t have and don’t want to buy cocktail onions, just thinly slice some red onions and put them in red wine vinegar for 15 minutes or so.

1 cup pepperoncini
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup green olives, pitted
¼ cup cocktail onions
2 cloves garlic, toasted
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 large basil leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 all-beef hot dogs
8 hot dog buns, split
16 slices provolone cheese

1. Pulse the pepperoncini, black and green olives, onions, garlic, capers, oregano, basil, and olive oil in a food processor until minced.

2. Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Place the hot dogs on the grill. Place the buns, flat side up, on the grill; cover with 2 cheese slices. Grill until the cheese melts and the hot dogs are heated through, covering barbecue to allow cheese to melt, 5 minutes for hot dogs and 3 minutes for buns. Transfer the buns and hot dogs to plates. Serve with the olive mixture.

muffaletta hot dogs 5

grilled shrimp and tomatillo enchilada casserole

shrimp enchiladas 7

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.

shrimp enchiladas 1

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.

shrimp enchiladas 4

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.

shrimp enchiladas 10

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

Printer Friendly Recipe
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.

shrimp enchiladas 9

paella

paella 8

I will always associate paella with the group of friends I hung out with in graduate school. We all enjoyed good food and good drinks, so whenever we got together, everyone would bring food and wine to share. One of my friends was from Spain, and he made paella at several of these get-togethers. Of course, it was fully authentic, cooked in a paella pan set on a tripod over an open flame. The smoked paprika, saffron, roasted red peppers, and rice came directly from Spain, picked up on his latest trip home to visit his parents. Sitting around the fire in my friends’ backyard, drinking good wine and eating paella is one of my most vivid food memories.

paella 1

I knew that cooking paella in a Dutch oven on the grill wouldn’t be the same, but I was hoping for just a twinge of that taste, that memory. That’s why I insisted on cooking it outside on the grill instead of using the much easier option of the stove and oven. Maybe it would pick up a hint of smokiness from the coals, but it was more than just the flavor I was after, it was that feeling.

paella 2

I got some of each. With the cast iron Dutch oven, the one Dave and I have taken camping for the last ten years, heated over coals on the grill, I got some of the fun of cooking outdoors. Dave sat outside with me with a glass of wine and let me babble on about different rice dishes in cultures around the world.

paella 3

The food was good, but I need some paella practice before it’ll be up to the standards of what I remember. The biggest mistake I made was preventing the formation of a soccarat, a layer of crusty bits on the bottom of the pan, which is one of the best parts of paella. Letting rice stick to the bottom of the pan goes against years of rice-cooking training, and I ended up adding too much liquid, making a wetter, saucier paella. I also think I’ll leave out the tomatoes next time. They were included in a number of the paella recipes I looked at, but it’s not a flavor I associate with paella.

paella 6

Overall, it was a successful meal, in that I had fun making it and it tasted good. But next time, I’ll use the lessons I learned, like not stirring the rice and leaving out the tomato, and my paella will be that much better. However, I doubt it’ll ever taste as good as one cooked over a fire in a paella pan while enjoying the company of good friends.

paella 10

One year ago: Bruschetta with Chickpea Puree
Two years ago: Grilled Potato and Vegetable Salad
Three years ago: Casatiello
Four years ago: Soba Salad with Feta and Peas

Printer Friendly Recipe
Paella (adapted from Cooks Illustrated, Alton Brown, the New York Times, Leite’s Culinaria, and About.com)

Most of my problems came from not following this method, adding more liquid and stirring more often because I was worried about the rice cooking unevenly. However, it should be noted that the recipe given here has not been perfected.

The recipe specifically refers to charcoal grilling methods, but I think it could be easily adapted to a gas grill.

4 cups water
8 ounces shrimp, peeled, shells reserved
1 onion, half sliced, half diced
2 garlic cloves, 1 sliced, 2 minced
1 small bay leaf
1 large thyme sprig
salt and pepper
1 pounds chicken legs and/or thighs, bone-in, skin-on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon crumbled saffron
1 cup short-grain rice, preferably Bomba
7 ounces canned diced tomatoes with juice
2 tablespoons white wine
½ cup peas

1. In a medium-size pot over medium-high heat, bring the water, shrimp shells, sliced onion, sliced garlic, bay leaf, thyme sprig and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain, discarding the solids. Return the broth to the saucepan, cover, and keep warm over low heat.

2. Combine the shrimp with 2 teaspoons olive oil, the minced garlic, ¼ teaspoon paprika, and a pinch of teaspoon salt. Mix well to coat with seasonings and let marinate at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.

3. Light about 2 quarts of charcoal briquettes; once the briquettes are lightly covered with gray ash, spread them over the bottom grate of the grill, then top with another 2 quarts of unlit coals.

4. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven directly over the coals. Add the shrimp and cook, without moving, until browned and pink on one side, 30 seconds to a minute. Flip the shrimp to brown the second side. Transfer to a plate.

5. Season the chicken generously with salt and ground black pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the hot skillet (or Dutch oven). Add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook with moving until the bottom is deeply browned, 3-4 minutes. Turn each piece of chicken to brown the other side. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate. (Because the chicken is mostly raw and the shrimp is cooked and will only be briefly reheated, don’t put them on the same plate.)

6. Add the diced onion, red pepper, and a pinch of salt to the skillet; sauté, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the saffron and remaining ¼ teaspoon paprika and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about a minute.

7. Add the rice, stirring well to coat with the onion mixture. Add the tomatoes, wine, half of the hot shrimp broth, ½ teaspoon salt, and the browned chicken. Bring to a brisk simmer, stirring once. Simmer, uncovered, until most of the broth has been absorbed, about 10 minutes.

8. Add the remaining broth and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and arrange the peas and shrimp over the surface of the rice in one layer. Cover the pan with a clean dish cloth. Let the rice rest for 10 minutes before serving.

paella 9