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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migas

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I’ve been raving about migas since the first time I made them, several months ago. They’re such a perfect breakfast for me that I’ve had them almost every weekend since. Somewhere along the way, after I talked my brother into making them, he pointed out that they’re basically just scrambled eggs.

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Which is true, and in a way, sums up what it is I love about them – their simplicity. Scrambled eggs is not a complicated breakfast, so that must mean that migas are also not a complicated breakfast. And beyond that, it’s healthy and filling and flexible.

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The recipe I’ve given here is one of my favorite ways to make it, and the simplest way I like it. First, I bake lightly oiled corn tortillas until browned. I tried frying them once, but since baking results in crisp tortillas every bit as good as those that are fried, but is healthier, I’m sticking with that. However, it’s not uncommon that I’ll use the crumbs at the bottom of the tortilla chip bag either, when they’re too small to dip in salsa but there’s too many to throw away.

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The other ingredients I consider crucial to migas are chiles and cheese. I use roasted and peeled Hatch green chiles, but any chile you like would be fine. I suspect that while beans are a common side, adding them to the migas themselves isn’t traditional, but the sweetness they add to the dish is too good to skip.

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In addition to these standards, I’ve also added chorizo (shown here), spaghetti squash, and random unlabeled spicy tomato stuff I found in the freezer (probably meant for this dish, but who can be sure). It’s not a dish that requires precision or even consistency. Every single time I’ve made it, it’s been different, but it always been delicious – and easy.

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One year ago: Greek Yogurt Dill Dip
Two years ago: Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
Three years ago: White Cake (comparison of 3 recipes)
Four years ago: Danish Braids (for the Daring Bakers)

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Migas (adapted from Homesick Texan)

4 servings

When I add chorizo, I brown it before adding the cooking the onion, replacing the oil with the fat rendered from the sausage. When I’ve added pre-cooked leftover squash, I add it with the beans and tortillas.  I often add the salsa with the beans too, although the texture of the finished isn’t as firm as when it’s added as a garnish.

8 corn tortillas
8 eggs
salt
4 ounces chopped green chiles
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 (15-ounce) can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 ounces (½ cup) shredded cheddar, Monterey jack, or pepper jack
salsa
cilantro

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Arrange an oven-safe cooling rack on a baking sheet. Light spray both sides of the tortillas with nonstick spray; lay them in a single layer on the cooling rack and bake, flipping once, for 12-16 minutes, until browned and crisp. Break into bite-sizes pieces.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, ¼ teaspoon salt, and green chiles with a whisk until large bubbles start to form around the edges of the bowl.

3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt; sauté, stirring occasionally, until just browned around the edges, 5-8 minutes. Pour in the egg mixture and cook without stirring for about a minute, then drag a spatula through the eggs a few times to lightly stir them. Let the eggs set for approximately 30 seconds, then stir again. Add the tortilla pieces, beans, and cheese. Cook and stir the eggs until set. Serve immediately, topping each portion with salsa and cilantro.

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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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strawberry rhubarb pie

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My parents have a cabin in the mountains in Colorado, where they have a neighbor who is officially a Mountain Man, with a long scraggly beard, horses running around on his property, and the requisite amount of woman trouble. One day the Mountain Man and I got to talking about pie. He declared that pie is simple – it’s a mixture of fruit, flour, and sugar baked in a crust. I don’t recall whether we discussed his crust recipe, but I have to believe it comes from a vacuum-packed tube.

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While I can agree that fruit pies are, at their most basic, a mixture of fruit, sugar, and thickener, I would disagree that that makes them simple. In fact, it makes them particularly tricky. First, the best thickener for each fruit varies – is it flour, cornstarch, tapioca, or something impossible to find in the average grocery store? Second, and worse, is that the perfect amount of thickener will vary depending on how ripe the fruit is. Exceptionally juicy peaches will need more thickener (and less sugar) than just barely ripe peaches.

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I’ve gotten strawberry rhubarb pie wrong at least as often as I’ve gotten it right. Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe for it that starts with sautéing the rhubarb with sugar to get rid of some of the excess liquid. I did make an awesome pie with this recipe, but it resulted in the worst burn I’ve ever had when a chunk of super hot sugar-coated rhubarb landed on my foot. Plus it’s a hassle – who wants to deal with pre-cooking the filling in addition to rolling out dough and chopping filling ingredients?

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I tried Deb’s recipe last year, which calls for tapioca as the thickener, but didn’t like the bits of gelatinous tapioca mixed with the fruit filling. I thought the answer was grinding the tapioca to a powder with a spice grinder (aka repurposed coffee grinder) until I saw Cook’s Illustrated comment (in The New Best Recipe) that tapioca and rhubarb don’t make a great pair. I happen to have arrowroot powder in the cabinet, so I used that instead.

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And what I got was a perfect strawberry rhubarb pie. When the first slice was removed, the filling didn’t flow in to fill the void, but it wasn’t dry. It was just sweet enough. I didn’t use flour in the filling, but I still think that even Mountain Man would approve.

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One year ago: Whole Wheat Almond Bread
Two years ago: Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Three years ago: Strawberry Tartlets
Four years ago: Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

I used Deb’s recipe for pie crust.

If you can’t find arrowroot powder, use ¼ cup of tapioca, ground in a spice grinder.

Baking the pie on a baking sheet catches any drips; preheating the baking sheet helps the bottom crust become crisp and flaky instead of soggy.

dough for a double-crust pie, rolled into two 13-inch circles and refrigerated
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (4.4 ounces) granulated sugar
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) light brown sugar
¼ cup arrowroot powder
¼ teaspoon salt
24 ounces (about 3½ cups) rhubarb, sliced ½-inch thick
16 ounces (about 3½ cups) strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if small
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg beaten to blend with ¼ teaspoon salt (for glaze)

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, mix the sugars, arrowroot powder, and salt. Add the rhubarb, strawberries, and lemon juice; stir to combine well.

3. Line a 9-inch pie plate with one round of dough. Transfer the filling to the lined pan. Scatter pieces of butter over the fruit. Top with the second round of dough, sealing and fluting the edges. Cut 8 slits in the top crust and brush with the egg wash.

4. Transfer the pie to the hot baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees; bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

5. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool at least 4 hours before serving.

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roasted rhubarb jam

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One of the things I’m trying to do with my rhubarb surplus this year is not mix it with strawberries. (Please disregard this statement when my next post is strawberry rhubarb pie.) It isn’t that I have anything against strawberries and rhubarb together. Those two are often paired up for reasons beyond their aligned seasons. Sweet strawberries are a natural match for sour rhubarb.

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But now that I’m starting to realize how much I enjoy rhubarb for its own merit, I want to use it more often by itself. Mixing it into batter for muffins was a good start, but a simple mostly-hands-off jam is an even more direct way to enjoy rhubarb. All it takes is cutting it up, mixing it with sugar, and giving it a few stirs while the oven softens and sweetens the stalks.

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I used a spatula to mash up the roasted rhubarb, but if you wanted something smoother, you could puree it in a food processor or press it through a food mill. The chunky version would go wonderfully with tart plain yogurt, especially with some crunchy granola on top. And I can guarantee that it makes the perfect topping for brown rice pudding – along with some sliced strawberries, of course.

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One year ago: Grapefruit Honey Yogurt Scones
Two years ago: Croissants (Martha Stewart’s recipe)
Three years ago: Rhubarb Scones
Four years ago: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

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Roasted Rhubarb Jam (from hogwash)

2 pounds rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
Pinch salt

Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 9-by-13-inch dish, mix the ingredients. Bake them, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is soft enough to mash into a spread, about 1½ hours.

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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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california roll burgers

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I am not the most effusive of food bloggers. I’m not much for “OMG OMG make this ASAP” types of statements. I understand that we all have different tastes, different health requirements, different time constraints; what is a perfect recipe for me might not seem so to you. But, most importantly, those types of statements need to be saved for the really special recipes.

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This is a really special recipe. If you consider the best burger I’ve ever eaten to be really special, that is. And I think it is, because I have eaten some pretty fantastic burgers, starting with the classic green chile cheeseburger, including lamb burgers with feta and tzatziki, and not to mention the fancy schmancy fig-glazed burger with onion jam.

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All are wonderful, and I don’t plan on giving them up, but this one is my new favorite burger. Admittedly, this is coming from a sushi lover who lives over 150 miles from the nearest sushi restaurant, so I’m always excited when I can get sushi flavors without requiring raw fish or hours of rolling.

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I thought at first that mild turkey burgers would work better with the light shellfish and vegetable toppings, but it turned out that the turkey was too timid, and I could hardly taste it over the king crab, avocado, and wasabi. It was still the best burger I’d ever had though. But I tried again, this time using hearty ground beef instead of turkey and pasteurized lump crab (soaked in milk for 20 minutes to null fishy odors, as per Cook’s Illustrated’s recent crab cake recipe) instead of king crab. And then that was the best burger I’d ever had.

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And next time, I’ll get the best of both worlds by using ground beef and king crab, and then that will be the best burger I’ve ever had. This small-town desert girl has figured out how to get her sushi fix, and that’s worth getting excited about.

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One year ago: Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
Two years ago: Stuffed Butterflied Leg of Lamb
Three years ago: Fresh Strawberry Scones
Four years ago: Hash Browns with Sautéed Vegetables and Poached Eggs

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California Roll Burgers (adapted from Use Real Butter)

6 burgers

The fish sauce replaces salt in this burger recipe, while also providing a dose of umami. I’ve tried it with regular burgers and didn’t notice any difference, but I like it here because the flavor matched the toppings I used for this burger. If it isn’t something you keep around, use ¾ teaspoon salt instead.

If you prefer, you can replace the Greek yogurt with additional mayonnaise.

1 pound ground beef (no leaner than 90%)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces shelled crab (from 2 king crab legs, or use pasteurized lump crab)
¼ cup mayonnaise, divided
2 sheets nori, cut into strips
¼ cup Greek yogurt
1-2 tablespoons powdered wasabi
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 burger buns, halved horizontally
2 avocadoes, peeled, seeded, and sliced
1 cucumber, sliced thinly
sesame seeds

1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, fish sauce, sugar, and pepper. Form into 6 patties, about ½-inch thick and 4 inches wide. In a medium bowl, combine the crab, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, and nori. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons mayonnaise with the Greek yogurt, wasabi powder, and soy sauce.

2. Prepare a medium-hot grill. Using a paper towel, grease the grate with vegetable oil. Grill the beef patties for 5 minutes; flip, and continue grilling another 5 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the burger buns on the hottest part of the grill.

3. Spread the wasabi mayonnaise on both sides of the buns. Top with slices of avocado, a burger patty, the crab salad, cucumber slices, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

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goat cheese scallion muffins

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Goat cheese scallion muffins don’t sound very similar to garlic cheddar biscuits, and yet when Dave said these reminded him of Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay biscuits, I agreed. They have some things in common – there’s cheese and aromatics in both, but goat cheese and cheddar are very different beasts. Besides, who would think that a muffin and a biscuit would have such similar textures?

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It’s probably because I mixed the batter like I would a biscuit, by cutting the goat cheese into the dry ingredients before stirring in the liquids. The original recipe might have been more muffin-like, with a layer of goat cheese baked between dollops of dough, but I wanted bits of goat cheese spread evenly throughout the muffin. I also used buttermilk instead of milk, counting on the former’s sour tang to add the “zing” that many reviewers complained was missing from muffins made with the original recipe.

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I must have done something right, because these had plenty of flavor; the goat cheese stood out nicely. It’s hard to say if they live up to the legacy of Red Lobster’s deservedly popular biscuits, but as irresistible as those are, they have one thing those don’t – goat cheese. And plenty of zing.

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One year ago: Double/Triple Chocolate Cookies
Two years ago: Orange Oatmeal Currant Cookies
Three years ago: Burnt Sugar Ice Cream
Four years ago: Strawberry Cheesecake

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Goat Cheese Scallion Muffins (adapted from Gourmet via epicurious)

Makes 12 muffins

1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
4 scallions, minced
1 egg
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk
4 ounces goat cheese

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray the bottoms of a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick spray or line with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, baking soda, and scallions. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, butter, and buttermilk.

2. Using a pastry blender, cut the goat cheese into the flour mixture until the largest cheese pieces are about pea-sized. Add the liquid ingredients; use a rubber spatula to stir until just combined.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Set the pan on a rack to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, then use a thin-bladed knife to remove the muffins from the pan. Serve warm.

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pizza with lamb meatballs, caramelized onions, and parsley

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The disadvantage of only working every other Friday is that the longer 5-day weeks seem like an eternity. When will it end? How can it be only Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday? I have to wake up to an alarm again? Torture! It’s not that I don’t like my job, it’s just that I like the weekends so much more.

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I get by by keeping my eye on the prize, and by “prize”, I mean when I come home from work on Friday afternoon, grab my book and a beer, and go sit in the backyard. I plan the rest of my week so that Friday after work is a No Chore Zone. The groceries should be shopped for, the dishwasher should be emptied, the house should not be a pigsty. I don’t want any detours between putting down my work bag and heading out to the backyard to read in the sun.

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An hour or two later, refreshed, I’ll come in to make dinner. These long weeks always call for pizza on Friday. If I lived somewhere with a good takeout option, I would welcome that, but instead, I make my own, which has the added advantage of whole wheat crust and skim milk cheese (I think it melts better anyway). Not to mention – when was the last time you saw lamb meatballs on a pizza menu?

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This pizza, one of the best I’ve made recently, is a perfect example of my pizza formula, with savory lamb, sweet onions, bitter parsley, and the traditional acidic tomato sauce and salty cheese. It’s more work than your average pizza, what with the onions needing to be cooked and, most tediously, the tiny meatballs, but it’s worth the extra effort, even on a Friday night after a long workweek – provided that I get my beer and book in the backyard first.

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One year ago: Marbled Loaf Cake
Two years ago: Corned Beef Hash
Three years ago: Roasted Baby Artichokes
Four years ago: Rice and Beans

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Pizza with Lamb Meatballs, Caramelized Onions, and Parsley (inspired by Bon Appétit)

Serves 6

I tried this with both fresh mozzarella and the firmer type, and while they were equally tasty, the firmer cheese did a better job of gluing the meatballs to the pizza. Lamb meatballs that roll onto the floor to get coated in cat hair are sad.

12 ounces ground lamb
1 egg
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 pounds pizza dough (⅔ of this recipe), fully risen
1 (14-ounce) can whole or diced tomatoes packed in juice (not puree), drained
8 ounces (2 cup) shredded mozzarella
1 ounce (½ cup) grated parmesan
¼ cup minced parsley

1. Use your hands to evenly combine the lamb, egg, ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Form the mixture into balls about ½-inch in diameter. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the meatballs and cook until well browned on a couple sides, about 4 minutes, turning about once a minute with a spatula. Wipe out the skillet.

2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering; stir in the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions just begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened and are medium golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.

3. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Divide the dough in half; shape each portion into a ball. Let the balls of dough relax for 10 to 30 minutes.

4. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor 10-12 times, until they’re pureed. Transfer them to a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl and let them drain, stirring occasionally, for at least 10 minutes. Discard the liquid in the bowl, transfer the tomatoes from the strainer to the now-empty bowl, and stir in a pinch of pepper and ⅛ teaspoon of salt.

5. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots.

6. Line a pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet) with parchment paper and transfer the round of dough to the peel, rearranging it to something reasonably circular. Spread half of the sauce over the dough, then top with half of the mozzarella, meatballs, onions, and parmesan. Transfer the pizza to the hot pizza stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom of the crust is spotty brown. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle half of the parsley over it, and let it cool on cooling rack for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

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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