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chili night

While many of you may be enjoying {or hiding from} the dog days of summer, our cold grey San Francisco summer has arrived full bore, calling for parkas on the way to morning coffee.  But since we have had a pretty nice summer with plenty of days for seasonally-appropraite meals, I will do my best not to complain.  Plus, weather talk is boring.

I only bring it up to set the stage for chili dinner in August.

A big pot of giant black beans were already simmering on the stove when I decided that chili was in order.  I didn’t use a recipe, just a hodge-podge of versions I like, plus what I had on hand, plus what sounded good.  I wanted something like mom’s version growing up – maybe not authentic in Texas – but a kind that hits the spot.  Ground meat, or turkey generally in my case, beans, tomatoes and lots of spices.  Instead of stock for extra liquid, in addition to tomato sauce, I added a bottle of beer.  Once it simmered together, it became exactly what I was looking for.

We topped it with a bit of white cheddar, greek yogurt and green onion.  On the side, 101 Cookbook’s Firecraker Cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet and a raw kale salad flecked with grated pear brought it all together.

I’m not going to lie, this little dinner got me pretty excited for Fall!

Turkey Chili, Firecracker Cornbread & Raw Kale Salad

Chili Toppings

Chili & Cornbread

Are you holding on to summer or ready for what’s next?  
I can’t decide, which I guess works with the Indian Summer/foggy day combo we have coming.

Brunch at home

Weekend brunch is often done in restaurants (and perhaps with a bit of a headache from the night before), but we really must work on bringing it back home.  I know I don’t do it often enough, but it is such a shame … case in point.

Last weekend, some friends were in town for Outside Lands, and we had plans to meet Saturday morning for brunch before heading to the park.  But a quick glance in my fridge revealed some things that needed to be put to use, so we changed the arrangements for brunch at home.

Pan con tomate

Brunch at home - baked eggs and bacon

A perennial favorite (that also made use of the arugula and spinach that were some of the must-be-used culprits) are the baked eggs with rocket, chili & yogurt from Yotem Ottolenghi’s Plenty.  The original recipe calls for arugula, I have made it before with spinach, and this time I used a combo.  I doubled the recipe, which gave us 8 eggs (also, # of eggs in fridge) and was perfect for 5 people.  I am sure no one would have complained with 2 eggs a piece, but I was fine with one … plus all the other goodies.

To supplement the fridge basics, I did a quick run for bacon (roasted in the oven – my favorite – less work & less mess), orange juice and bread.  The bread became pan con tomate, with fresh from the vine tomatoes that Audra brought straight from the farm, and the orange juice met up with bubbly for brunch-required mimosas.

Brunch-beverages

A few more beverages (flat + sparkling, bloody marys and coffee) as brunch calls for LOTS of drink options, some fruit and a bit more yogurt, and well, I may just give up my standing brunch at Nopa.

Brunch at home

Baked Eggs with Yogurt and Chili
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BBQ Chicken with Grilled Radicchio and Green Bean Salad

On Saturday in Tahoe, the plan was barbecue chicken, smashed roasted potatoes and a big veg salad.  Then the power went out on our block and so we switched the potatoes to the grill and same with the summer squash – nixing the salad that would be easiest made in the kitchen. But then, the propane ran out while the chicken was only not close to done.  Half-cooked chicken is not exactly salvageable, so we scratched it all and walked down the street to dinner.

But the barbecue chicken hankerin’ has remained.

Indoor BBQ Chicken

So last night I quickly grilled chicken thighs, painting on a bit of BBQ sauce at the end, just to caramelize. It was fast, easy and just what we were looking for in the weeknight version.

As for the salad, while the chicken was grilling, I added radicchio quarters to the heat, removing once they were nicely grilled on all sides. A quick blanch for the green beans, plus a basic shallot-red wine vinaigrette, made a little richer with the slightest splash of cream, toasted pinenuts, and we were just about there.  Once those elements were tossed together, I finished it with basil and goat cheese. It was one of those things that came together on the fly, but will most definitely be added to the regular rotation.

Grilled Radicchio and Green Bean Salad

Not quite as fun as the outdoor grilled version while sitting lakeside, but was a pretty close second.

Chicken, Salsa Verde & Heirloom Panzanella

It is no  secret that I think roast chicken is just about the best dinner – simple, hands-free, delicious, and (for us) with built in leftovers. And while I don’t believe in messing with a good thing, a few change ups now and then never hurt.

This spatchcocked version is still done in the oven, but could easily translate to the grill … it would just require a bit more attention, which isn’t necessarily bad, if that means hanging outside, with a beverage, perhaps.  I used the recipe from Amateur Gourmet (which in turn was from the NYT Magazine recipe, Butterflied Chicken with Cracked Spices) and was crazy about the spice rub from the start!

Spatchcock-Chicken-and-Salsa-Verde

The rub is a mixture of cumin, coriander and fennel seeds, dry toasted with a few peppercorns, then ground (in a spice mill or mortar and pestle), and mixed with salt and smoked paprika.  I need to triple the batch next time and always have it on hand!

As for ‘spatchcock’ – it just refers to removing the backbone and the cooking the chicken flat.

The salsa verde was another component that made this seem more vibrant than my standard swipe with a bit of mustard version.  This is not the tomatillo salsa verde of enchiladas and chile verde, but rather the parsley based classic green sauce of Italy.  It can be made in a food processor, but becomes a bit homogenous that way … I highly recommend a mortar and pestle if you have it.

This one starts with a bit of garlic, capers and anchovies, ground to a paste, then met with some mustard, wine vinegar and lemon juice, filled out with a generous handful or two of parsley and mint, and finished with a slow drizzle of olive oil.  The finished product comes together fully, but still retains each of the individual components. (Note, you can change the mint for an herb of your choice, as everything goes well with parsley).

Chicken, Salsa Verde & Heirloom Panzanella

Heirloom Panzanella

Seeing that we know that bread salad is such a great match for roast chicken, it seemed obvious that a panzanella was in order.

Panzanella is an Italian bread salad with day-old bread, which is brought to life from the juices of the tomatoes and a perky vinaigrette.  I often make croutons, but if you have stale bread on hand, this is absolutely the place for it.  From there, just add in an assortment of your favorite summer vegetables.  I keep it easy with just cucumbers and bell pepper in with the tomatoes (and some thinly sliced red onion when I remember), and of course with a generous handful of torn basil.  As for the vinaigrette, I like a garlicky one, but without balsamic — instead one made puckery with lemon juice and red wine vinegar.  Keeps is bright!

I may have thrown in a little bit of fresh mozzarella at the end, but that is strictly optional.

We enjoyed this at the table and caught up on our days, but I think a dinner like this is best enjoyed outside, just before the sun goes down with a nice glass of rose.  Hmmm, may need to repeat tonight…

Chicken-&-Panzanella

Do you adapt your favorite meals to the seasons?

Gazpacho, Crab Cake and Salad

While weeknight dinners in general should be pretty quick and easy, summer versions should be even more so.  Which is why gazpacho is the perfect antidote to the heat (not that we get too much of that here in SF, but I can pretend).  Just as the sun heats up, tomatoes peak – making them the perfect dinner.

The gazpacho that I keep in rotation year after year is from Jose Andrés, a fabulous Spanish chef {with equally great restaurants from D.C. to L.A.), so have seen no reason to deviate.  Sometimes I get a little fancy with the garnish, sometimes I just chop up what ever didn’t make it in the blender.

What’s great is a large batch keeps for a few days, so lunch and tomorrow’s dinner are ready at once, with nary a stove in sight.

Gazpacho & Crabcakes

But seeing that I am not a gal who can be filled on cold tomato soup alone, I need a little something else too.

On a weekend and with friends, paella often fits that bill, but during the week, quick garlic shrimp more often make it to the plate.  Which was the plan here, except when I went to buy some shrimp on my way home Tuesday night, I spied these cute little crab cakes ready to go.  I don’t often buy pre-made items in the butcher/fish case, but I may be rethinking that plan.  A quick little fry (in a non-stick skillet, to reduce the oil) plus a basic green salad added at the end, and my ideal summer dinner was ready in minutes.

If you have the time or inclination to make your own crab cakes, here are two versions I want to try soon.  The ladies of Canal House have one that specifically calls for canned crab, which turns them into an anytime-pantry-basic, and this recipe from Food 52 forgoes the bread crumbs, keeping the emphasis rightly on the crab.

Gazpacho -- dinner on the couch

And in true weeknight fashion, it was enjoyed from the couch and coffee table, catching up on Sunday night’s Newsroom.

Jose Andres’s Gazpacho
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Fish Tacos

That little watermelon salad post reminded me that the most recent incarnation of fish tacos never made it up here.

Generally when I make fish tacos, I just grill the fish with a little smoky-spicy rub – super quick and always a hit.  But then Catie mentioned to me a version she tried, and from the raves it received, it was obvious that I would be changing methods.

You first marinate the fish with lime juice, tequila, onions and jalapeño (full recipe here), and then cook the onions and peppers in the marinade — which makes for a fun change from the quick pickled onions I usually have for tacos.  Grill the fish and pull together the rest of the taco fixings.  I didn’t do the full slaw, but had plenty of shredded cabbage ready, which is a must for fish tacos in my book.  The rest of the toppings included avocado, cilantro, and of course, some chipotle-lime-cream.

Onions and Jalapenos - Tequila Lime Marinade

Grilled Fish -- Fish Tacos

As for the tortillas, I used some good ones that I picked up at the market, but making your own is pretty easy – and worth it.  Since I started making them, I have upped the ante a bit, and now do a second cooking in a bit of coconut oil (or if you have it and aren’t scared, good leaf lard) — they get a bit crispy and a lot tasty.  Kind of perfect actually!

It’s always fun to try a new take on old favorites, and I think soon enough, this version will be the old standby. And it doesn’t hurt that this one has you bringing out the tequila on a Tuesday!

Fish Tacos

Grilled eggplant and turkey bolognese

Sometimes I want pasta, but without, you know pasta.  I find if there is a meat sauce, it is pretty easy to sub vegetables for noodles with very little complaints.  And then save the spaghetti and penne for veg-only nights.

Along with tomatoes and corn, I try and get eggplant in at every turn come summer.  It is great grilled simply, perhaps with a mash up of other summer squash, finished with just a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and mint or basil.  Or roasted with cherry tomatoes, tossed with some capers and herbs for a simple topping to grilled fish.

But last night I wanted something a bit more hearty, while still pretty healthy.  I made a simple “bolognese” (not the real deal, but delicious none the less), with ground turkey (dark and light), onion and garlic, tomatoes – both a can of whole San Marzanos and some fresh heirlooms on their last leg, grated to easily be rid of the skin – herbs and some time. I was able to throw it together in the afternoon and left it to simmer for hours.  Many of my tomato sauces are the quick kind, but it is nice to remember what happens when things have a chance to really meld together.

Grilling Eggplant

Once the sauce was ready, dinner came together pretty quickly.

  1. Slice and salt eggplant, let it sit for a few minutes and pat dry.
  2. Grill the eggplant (indoors, or out).
  3. Top with meat sauce and add a teeny bit of mozzarella (I used fresh mozzarella, but thought smoked would’ve been ideal, if our market had it).
  4. Broil until cheese is melted, golden brown and bubbly.
  5. Finish with fresh basil, which brings you back to summer.

We had it with some sauteed kale (which I felt I needed after a decadently long 4th week) but a simple summer salad would be great too.

Grilled eggplant and Turkey bolognese ... heading to the broiler

Do you ever have pasta dinners, hold the pasta?  In the fall, spaghetti squash is the perfect sub…

Summer BBQ dinner

A few weekends ago, we had a little backyard BBQ* with our friends Catie and Jimmy.  Played a few games – bocce, backgammon and badminton – sipped some rosé and grilled up a feast.  It was a super simple menu that will be on repeat around here all summer.  Starting with the 4th!

Tri-tip and fresh roasted salsa

Grilled Corn

Grilled Tri-tip with Roasted Tomato Salsa from the Bi-Rite Cookbook
Catie made it so I can’t totally tell you what all went in it, but the basics were red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a few types of hot peppers roasted in a HOT oven, then pureed with cilantro and seasoned to taste.  SO GOOD!

Grilled Corn with Harissa Aioli
The aioli was basically my homemade mayo, with a smidge of smashed garlic and a harissa spice blend (toasted first) added at the end.  A little lime juice squirted on at the end, and this may replace Café Habana’s version (i.e. Mexican street corn) of my favorite summer corn.

Spinach Salad with Apricots, Blueberries and Ricotta
I happen to love a little fruit in salads, and this was no exception.  I had never thought to add ricotta to salad, fearing it wouldn’t hold up, but it gives it a great richness.  And has been repeated many times since. 

Grilled peaches and ice cream

and the plan was to end with a peach cobbler of the sorts, but we ran out of steam (sun and wine’ll do that to a gal!) … the peaches were great the next night grilled and topped with vanilla ice cream.  And would also be the perfect ending to any day at the grill!

What are your favorite summer grilling menus?  Anything good on tap for Wednesday?

*in case you noticed this looks more indoor than out, San Francisco summers days, even when warm, do not necessarily translate to nice summer nights. ;)

tortilla espanola

Every year as the weather gets warmer and summer itches towards us, I get the fiercest craving for my favorite Spanish foods.  Paella, gazpacho, pan con tomate, the list goes on.  And just as often, I will jump the gun on at least one – when tomatoes start to pop up and look like the real thing, I can’t take it anymore.

And so here we were the Saturday of our little flower workshop.  It was decided we would need some sustenance before all that “work”, so I made a quick tortilla española, which then cooled a bit while we ran to the flower mart.

I used a combo of these recipes (here and here), keeping it simple, but did make a little pimenton sauce to have on the side.  It was the perfect little lunch with melon y jamon and {a wee bit early} pan con tomate.

This meal will definitely be in rotation all summer long – for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m afraid!

Making-tortilla-espanola

{Leftover} chicken tostada

What are your thoughts on leftovers?

I am perfectly happy with leftovers as-they-are for lunch (or even breakfast), but when it comes to dinner, I usually want things in a different form.  Which is one of the great things about roast chicken – the leftovers are endlessly adaptable.  Soups, pastas, enchiladas, sandwiches, you name it.

Last night, we went with tostadas.

Grilled tortillas, black beans (homemade this time and on hand, but canned just as often), spinach, a bit of cheese, tomatoes, avocados and my favorite chipotle-lime cream (with yogurt last night).  Combined with some heated-until-crispy leftover shredded chicken.

So easy, fresh and so good – meals like these give leftovers a good name.

Making-a-Tostada

{leftover} chicken tostada

ABOUT

Martha Stewart I am not -
I have no intention of
whittling my own table
and can handle a martini
like nobody's business -
but I do have lots of
great ideas on cooking,
entertaining, and living
that I want to share with you.

Together, perhaps we can find
ways to have a bit more fun!

Contact:
info{at}caitlindentino{dot}com

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